Something was wrong in the youth room. It was quiet. Too quiet.
The pool table sat unused with the cue sticks hung against the wall. Nearby a foosball table collected dust. A ping pong ball and two paddles lay still against the net. Off in the distance an air hockey table quietly hummed to itself.
Four young people sat quietly on a hand-me-down couch. They weren't being punished in time out. They hadn't fallen asleep. They weren't even whispering sweet nothings to each other. Rather, they all sat engrossed in electronics. The first young person was energetically tapping out a text message with her cell phone. The second young person was playing a video game on his Nintendo DS. The third young person sat with her eyes closed blissfully listening to music on her iPod. The fourth young person was engrossed in video clips he had recorded earlier on his camcorder. I don't think any one of them realized that the other three were there. I made eye contact with the nearest adult volunteer. She gave a slight nod of her head that let me know Operation: Do Something was ready to spring into action. She approached the headphoned girl and asked if she would like to play ping pong. The girl took the bait. I went after the one with the video game and had him playing pool before he even realized what was happening. The other young people, noticing their friends smiling, got off the couch to investigate and soon joined in the activity. Within no time the whole room was filled with the noise and commotion of laughter and fun.
Our mission accomplished, my partner and I relocated to the kitchen nook to mix up some Kool-Aid.
THINK ABOUT THIS: Do not complain about young people sitting around. Show them how to have fun!
I.F. Eastman coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. Portions of this article were adapted from Get the Word Out: Communication Tools and Ideas for Asset Builders Everywhere with permission from the publisher.