In Your Corner:

The Heart & Soul of the Next Generation

by Annaleah Atkinson – Special to The Garden Island

“The Heart & Soul of the Next Generation” has become a recent new favorite book of mine.

It was written by Michael J. Bradley, doctor of education. He was a counselor for over 30 years in various institutions and schools, and over time collected stories about youth who through terrible and various adversities were able to reach something strong and true within themselves.

When that happened, their lives ignited, and they were able to help others deal with their problems. Bradley calls them his heroes. The book reads like a “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”

One story stands out for me at this time because it deals with a 14-year-old boy and his father. The mother died giving birth to the baby sister four years previously. Mother had been the one to help the father and son understand and communicate with each other.

When she died the relationship between the father and son gave way to one of misunderstanding each other. Each expressed his grief by lashing out at the other, criticizing each other, and hurting each other.

Bradley knew that the love was there, and that they really needed to truly communicate with each other about how they were each feeling.

The father, a car mechanic, worked long hours into the night to pay for special schooling for his son. The son had wealthy friends, and he put his father down.

In a therapy session the father was able to tell the son that he was hard on him because he was scared and worried that his son wouldn’t be able to fix cars, and take care of himself, or find a wonderful wife like his mother.

He also picked on him because he didn’t think that he was able to live up to his wife’s standards, so was being extra hard on him, and he apologized.

As the son looked at the hole in his heart that was left by his mother’s death, and began to deal with it, he was able to understand how the father was hurting also.

He began to appreciate how his father worked long hours, and the dedication to his mother. His friends had parents who cheated on each other, and their mansions weren’t as warm as the small home he took for granted.

He apologized to his father for being so petty. The blocks to the love in their relationships were removed, and the love between them was free to flow again.

Bradley ends each story with something that parents and kids can learn. In this one he states, “(The son’s) gift to fathers is reminding us to say much more to our sons about our concern and love for them, and to say much less about our criticisms of them. Like (the father) we must remember what is important, and then live, not preach those things in order to teach our sons. For in the end, it is not the chores or sports or grades that make the future man, or that distinguish the ‘winner’ from the ‘loser,’ it is the heart and the heart alone that defines the worth of the future man — the person who, for the briefest of moments, is our son. Let us use our moments wisely.”

Cases come to Teen Court similar to this story. This one’s for them.

“In Your Corner” is a phrase that means support. Its origin comes from boxing. In between rounds, the boxer retires to his corner, and a group of people coach him, give him medical help, water, and cheer him on.

Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life.

They are: Catherine Stovall, community response specialist, County of Kaua’i; Edmund Acoba, public defender; Craig DeCosta, county prosecuting attorney; Officer Paul Applegate, Kaua‘i Police Department; Daniel Hamada, superintendent of schools; Jill Yoshimatsu, director of the DOE Mokihana program; and Annaleah Atkinson, Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i.

If you have something to share with Kaua‘i Teens, or need to ask a question, e-mail Annaleah at aatkinson@haleopio.org, or snail-mail her at: Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, HI 96766. She will field questions to the person who can best help with the answer.

• Annaleah Atkinson is the Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i. She can be reached at aatkinson@haleopio.org, or Hale ‘Opio Kaua‘i Inc., 2959 Umi Street, Lihu‘e, HI 96766.

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