Such an observation came to us long ago from American poet Shel Silverstein (1930-99) who reflected on the power of the mind and the imagination, especially within the realm of a child.
The poet offered, “Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me ... anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
It is a brief bit of prose that should be heard by every child in America, and beyond — and particularly those who, through no fault of their own, live under the choke hold of limitation compounded by poverty, parental neglect and peer pressure.
Such a belief in listening to the children and investing time, energy — and love — in their future anchors the very foundation of work by the dedicated membership of 100 Black Men, a highly respected organization in our hometown community that is celebrating 20 glorious years of nurturing our youth.
Surely it came with great pride to the nonprofit’s members to see the way their mentees and scholarship recipients of the past, present and future beamed at the chance to be a part of something big at the 20th anniversary dinner.
And truly their ears perked, and their smiles widened — as did ours — when young mentee Ashton Dunn read from his “I Am the Future” essay. A CMS student who enjoys competing in football, track and wrestling, Ashton is also a gifted writer — one who understands the joy, and the power, in bringing life to words by reaching from deep within.
In his essay, Ashton calls for change.
His are words that should be heard by all, and they should be seen. Our front-page articles published in last Monday’s edition offered that outlet. We quoted from excerpts of his heartfelt essay, and we repeat some of those thoughts today.
“Killing and crime need to change,” Ashton writes. “With our minds ... we can make a change. As a 100 Black Men member, I am committed to making these changes. I will because I am not the past. I am the future.”
He linked his own life to the mission of his 100 Black Men mentors by suggesting the future needs a little help.
“We are here to show we are different,” he offers. “No one can stop us. We will make the future different in the best ways we can. Crime needs to stop. The world knows not what it was made to be.”
Like others his age, young Ashton faces a troubling future, one filled with challenge and too many unanswered questions. Yet, he is not swayed by such threat. Instead, he is inspired to move forward one step at a time and day after day until the days meld into months and the months into years.
“I am the future because I will make this earth a better place,” Ashton tells us with a conviction that we, a far older generation, need to hear. “I will give back to the community. I will help feed the people in need. I will be the man who my parents made me to be.”
Young Ashton’s words are well worth repeating, especially these points:
“With our minds ... we can make a change.”
“... I am committed to making these changes. I will because I am not the past. I am the future.”
“We are here to show we are different.”
“I am the future because I will make this earth a better place.”
“I will give back to the community.”
“I will help feed the people in need.”
“I will be the man who my parents made me to be.”
Out of the mouths of babes?
Let none doubt the power of the mind, the strength of the spirit and the guidance of the heart. All are unstoppable forces. When used together, each brings balance to the others.
Perhaps we should listen to the children. Sometimes their words are far wiser than their years might suggest. And more times than not, their message is well worth the hearing.
“... I am not the past. I am the future.”
Yet when the past speaks, it is the future that can best learn from its message. This is the value of staunch leaders like members of 100 Black Men of Bradley County Inc.. It is their walk in life. It is their gift to a new generation.
May these good men continue to speak. May their words long be heard. May our youth glean from their knowledge.