Anyone who has followed this column much knows that frequent reference is made to the late Stephen Covey’s seminal work, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People. We have often discussed how it is being utilized in community building, is a blessedly beneficial part of our elementary kids’ curriculum, (rather than, as some would propose, having 4th graders being asked to have their innocence sullied by having to discuss in their elementary classroom the concept of adultery), and serves as a timeless set of principles that would stand up in any pulpit.
This is the second year that Mayor Marks has invited teenagers from our local schools to participate in the Mayor’s Youth Commission, and the program has been expanded to include 9th and 10th graders, in addition to juniors and graduating seniors.
One of the texts being used for the current crew is The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Teens, which is written by Stephen’s son Sean, who incidentally has spoken at Athens State University. Honestly, it wouldn’t hurt every adult in this town to get a copy of the teen version it’s so good. While it restates the 7 habits in concepts designed to target teens, we could all use an internal checklist to see if we are “stuff centered” or “friend centered.” Mayor Ronnie says that the “kids are full of enthusiasm,” and I can speak from literal years of observation that hardly anything makes him more enthusiastic than being able to work with kids. The program started in February, and the 9th and 10th graders actually voted to extend their Youth Commission commitment through May.
The kids were also taken on an “insider’s tour” of the jail, fed jail food, and given more than enough inspiration to avoid at all costs checking into “the gray bar motel” for an extended stay. “We are trying to get the kids to be ‘principle centered,’” said Mayor Ronnie. They also were given a tour of our local Emergency Management Agency, and briefed on what all is involved in helping our community to fare well in the event of an emergency or natural disaster.
Part of the 7 Habits platform is the concept of synergy, which could just as easily be defined as teamwork, or the result of the sum exceeding the parts. Mayor Marks then read me a story that illustrates just the opposite of operating in synergy, and that is arrogance. The story was published in a Christian evangelical devotional for busy men that he reads regularly, and the short paraphrased version is as follows: A zealous young man was witnessing to a fellow student, with the hopes of leading him to Christ. The patient young man was listening politely, and then began to tear up. The zealous young man wrongfully assumed that the tears were flowing from conviction of sin. When asked why he was crying, the polite young man simply said, “You are standing on my sore foot.” Teenaged kids can be full of themselves and utterly misperceive a situation, and so can adults. Learning the concept of humble teamwork is a major part of making a community strong, as is speaking with integrity into the lives of our progeny.
When it comes to strong teamwork, the Mayor is happy to report that “We have more kids getting ready to play baseball this spring than in the history of Athens.” Opening Day is Saturday, April 5th, and first pitch is at 9 am. Kids, synergy, baseball and endeavoring to avoid “the sore foot;” all of them are what make Ronnie roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner