Last week, I wrote about speaking to business leaders in Columbus about the YMCA, but I have a lot more to say about the Y. If you’re like me, when you think of the Y, you think of the pool, basketball courts, racket ball, yoga, Zoomba, pre-school tumbling, weight machines, and a walking track. But there’s so much more that we, the affluent middle class never have had to think about.
As I watched the video and listened to the accompanying speakers, I learned that the Y extends its services way beyond the the traditional activities.
For instance, a young black man spoke eloquently about his activities as a Y volunteer. He goes to playgrounds at recess times and engages the kids in constructive and organized games. Too often, these kids, without complete supervision, can get into trouble, such as fighting or throwing rocks at passing cars. This young man has a technique for getting their attention and diverting it to more acceptable behavior. Instead of yelling at them to stop whatever misbehavior they are engaged in, he holds out his hands and beckons them to come and “have a conversation” with them. As he explained to us, having a conversation is much more effective.
Another story was about a young woman whose home life was a struggle every day. With no husband to help with the young children, little money, and a low-paying job, coordinating her mornings and evenings with job and school schedules was a challenge, and the Y was there to help. Her children went to the Y in the morning as their mother left on the bus to work, and stayed their until their own bus to school arrived. And in the afternoons, they went to the Y until their mother came to collect them. These kids were not left at home by themselves to get into trouble or fall prey to other kids in the neighborhood or worse. In fact, in some cases, volunteers escorted the kids to their homes in dangerous neighborhoods. We who live behind our white picket fences with two cars in the driveway rarely see or understand these situations, but the Y is very much aware and has a corps of volunteers to insure the safety and wellbeing of all our children.
I spoke as a member of the Silver Sneakers set, who have the opportunity to recover from surgeries or debilitating conditions, to keep fit and healthy, or just have something to do in what could be an empty life after retirement. The name, YMCA encompasses much more than I ever knew. I rarely get sucked into a fund-raiser event by writing a check on the spot, but this time I did. The Y is good to me, and while my check isn’t very big, it’s one way I can say thank-you.