Letter From the CEO: April 2016

Apr 5, 2016, 13:05 PM by

Affluenza and Hope

My kids are privileged.

We have a third family car that the teens can drive. We go on trips. The kids will only have about $35,000 in college debt each. They eat nutritious meals. They have their own rooms and beds WITH sheets. Their chores are not onerous. It's not like they have to walk to school uphill both ways and feed the cows every morning. Their life is pretty good.

So, as a parent, how do I make sure they get that? How do I ensure that they are thankful and pay it forward? How do I combat the affluenza that we have in an area like this?

I'm not saying that this is a bad thing. We all work hard. We have generated our wealth and lifestyle. Very, very few of us have had it handed to us. So we want good things for our kids; we want them to smile and have joy. However, we also want them to have that same work ethic that garnered us the financial situation that now gives them nice things.

One of the ways to teach this lesson to our kids is through service learning projects. These are opportunities for your teen to do a project for an organization that needs help. For example, we had 40 kids on MLK Day go out to collect canned food for Harvest of Hope Pantry (see photo below). They delivered it to the pantry, sorted it and weighed it. They had the chance to see the people who rely on that food for sustenance. That was impactful. If you want to learn more about youth service learning projects at the Y, contact Kyl Caragol, our association director of teen programs, at [email protected].

Another opportunity to give your teen some perspective is through international work. I mention this because I have one spot left on our teen trip to the Peru YMCA, where 15 teens will work at the Y's orphanage, help maintain the buildings at the orphanage and then enjoy some tourism. Yes, it costs some money, but this is an incredible opportunity for them to see what life is like in a different culture (and within the poorest part of that culture). Also, the kids can raise money for themselves to go on this trip, which is a good experience for them. The whole trip should jar them a bit, and that is exactly what we want. If you are interested, please contact Tasia Maxwell and she can answer your questions. We will run this trip every summer, so consider it for the future.

There's something else I've been thinking about recently, and it relates … I know the news is full of doom and gloom, and we sometimes think the world is going to “hell in a hand basket.” But that is just not true. This election cycle could probably convince us that we are a divided country and that the fall of America is just around the country if we don’t vote for one party or another. When you read the news, you may think that this generation of kids is underperforming compared to the rest of the world. The truth is that we are victimized by the media and slick marketing.

The world is actually a pretty good place. If the world were a city, it'd have a few bad neighborhoods and some crime, but all in all, it'd be a pretty good city to live in.

Let's talk about our kids' education. Can you help them with their homework? That's a running joke in every family. I know that most of us cannot help them with their math or science (Except for my cousin Joan, an engineer, who can help any kid with their math homework). That’s because of the technological and scientific advancements we've seen over the years; kids are taking classes and studying subjects that were barely even concepts when we were kids.

Not convinced? Here are some stats for you to consider:

  • Between 1990 and 2010, the death rates from cancer dropped 20%. The advances in medicine are meteoric, and if they just exercised more and ate right, our kids would outlive us.

  • From 1990 to 2013 death from childbirth worldwide dropped by almost 50%, and the childhood death rate for kids 0-5 dropped by almost 50% worldwide.

  • The Encyclopedia Britannica, which started in 1768, has approximately 32 volumes at the time of its last printing. However, if we printed Wikipedia without any images, it would be 2,053 volumes.

  • In 2003, same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in the United States. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.

  • Would an African American run for the presidency 40 years ago? Or for that matter, would a woman be the front runner for either party even 20 years ago? These are two laudable signs of progress.

  • The illiteracy rate in the world has been cut in half since 1970. Also, the number of children who are not in school worldwide dropped from 100 million to approximately 58 million between 2000 and 2012.

  • In the 1940s, 300 out of every 100,000 people in the world would die because of war. The number today is 1 out of every 100,000.

  • That also translates into an increased life expectancy; in the last 50 years, we have seen an increase in life expectancy greater than in the past 200,000 years. In 1950, the average human lived to be 47, and now it is 70.

  • Since the 1960s, we have increased food production by 25% to the point where 2% of the population worldwide produces 2,800 calories a day for every person on the planet.

  • In 1981, 52% of the world’s population lived in abject poverty. Today, that number has dropped to approximately 21%.

  • Before 1990, there were only about one million cell phones, and today, there are almost 5 billion phones in circulation.

  • Lastly, the murder rate is dropping in 75% of the world's nations.

I admit that all of these data points can be argued by some as too high or too low, but the law of big numbers shows us that the world is a better place to live in. All of us have created something beautiful and meaningful. It is far from perfect; there is much we should be ashamed of for not fixing and much we need to work harder on fixing in the future. But we are fortunate to be living in the times we live in.

So, let's enjoy this beautiful world, but let's also take action to make it better. Go out to dinner and a movie — but also vote. Travel the world — but donate to charity. Enjoy your free time — but volunteer for worthy causes. Know that you live in the greatest time our planet has ever seen — but help make sure we preserve this planet for the future. Take the work and efforts of others and build on them; we must continue the positives changes. Like Stan Lee says, “With great power comes great responsibility.”


Thank You, 
Chris Coker 
CEO/President of YMCA of Boulder Valley