On Tuesday, May 11 th, 2010, I made a clear decision to begin writing a manuscript based on personal experience, to share important information that would hopefully address how today’s youth might go about avoiding a certain “self-blindness,” and thereby find their way to future happiness and success in life? It was important for me to start by pointing out upfront that I am not a theologian, pastor or a psychologist or an educator.
What I have to offer originated from having been a child that grew up on welfare in a single parented household headed by my Mother. It included an early home life with my older brother, Jeffrey and my younger sister, Michele.
Because I often found myself submerged in mischief and a habitual runaway, I became a ward of the State of New Jersey and as a result, lived under multiple legal guardians from age 12 up until I became 21 years old.
Were it not for the empathy and compassion that I received from others, I could easily have fallen victim to my own “insensibility, foolishness, and injustice of opinions” 1 . I did not know my ‘ inner self’ back then nor was I entirely aware of the possible negative effects of the then prevailing cultural, economic, educational, family, social or spiritual environment.
Through my participation in the federal government’s Fresh Air Fund sponsored free summer camps, YMCA membership, The CETA program enacted in 1973 to train workers and give them jobs in the public service as well as other summer job opportunities offered to low-income high school students at the time, and my ongoing involvement in church, school sports, and various other extracurricular activities, I managed to stay sheltered from the dangers of drugs, gangs and violence.
Later, under affirmative action, I gained admission to and successfully graduated from Holy Cross College in 1978 with a B.A. in Sociology. Shortly afterwards, I began an extended career in the banking industry where I became a Vice President for Bankers Trust Company New York (BTCo NY) later Deutsche Bank Trust Company America (DBTCA) where in my last job, I served as a Client Integration and On-boarding Consultant at 60 Wall Street in New York City.
For more than thirty years, I’ve been married to Dr. Wilda I. Smithers-Dunnemann a physician specializing in internal medicine who is an attentive, beautiful, devoted, and loving wife. Wilda is a fabulous mother to our only son Daniel, who we are both proud to say, is a compassionate, honest, intelligent, kind, and humble young man now well on his way to becoming a talented graphic designer and ethical business professional.
There are three primary reasons why I have chosen to share this detailed narrative with you about my personal transition from adolescence to adulthood and they are;
- To hopefully discover more effective ways to regulate ones emotional and social behavior,
- To possibly give further clues on how to develop thoughts, feelings and actions that better serve others in their efforts to “perfect themselves”, and finally
- Because “the capacity to exercise control over the nature and quality of one’s life is the essence of our humanness” (Bandura, 2001).
We all share in the universal wish to perfect ourselves, to round off our careers with the knowledge and graces of [good] taste. How many people would not gladly undertake some branch of serious study, so that they might not die under the reproach of having lived and died without ever really having known anything about anything! It is not an absence of want that prevents them. It is, first, the absence of willpower – not the will to begin, but the will to continue; and, second, [having] a mental apparatus which is out of condition, “puffy,” “weedy,” through sheer neglect. The remedy, then, divides itself into two parts, the cultivation of willpower, and the getting into condition of the mental apparatus. And these two branches of the cure [most assuredly], must be worked concurrently. 2
At this point in my life, it is difficult for me to imagine anything that would be more important or personally meaningful than being able to spend quality time contributing to the positive experiential learning efforts of others most especially our communities local youth.
For me, this entails providing adolescent youth, children, toddlers and their parents with information, methods, practices, and tools that are all properly directed at marshaling strengths to meet today’s challenges, making sense of, and inspiring a) respect for self, b) respect for others, c) civic responsibility, and d) respect for the natural environment (Hanley, 1989). 3
Over the course of the last several years, I have been heavily involved in researching and writing about different aspects of character, ethics, dialogue, faith, personal and social development, and the important role of religion and spirituality in our lives. I became engaged in this activity because I am immensely determined to find and provide sound and constructive ways to best ignite and foster a heart-awakening hunger for knowledge, balance, meaning, purpose, and inner calm in a person’s daily living.
According to Richards, Ellis and Neill, effectiveness in life — at school, home, or work is possibly the key issue for all people. However, it is not a single dimension. It is not just a matter of self-concept, or of social or physical skill. As an example, high performance requires inclusion of the following components;
Compassion for others,
- Positive thinking,
- Deep listening skills,
- Emotional intelligence (EQ)
- Spiritual intelligence (SQ)
- Service to others,
- Commitment, integrity, self-sacrifice, and
- Being able to draw a personal map from memory not from the atlas.
A complementary goal of mine is to convey to others how devoting attention to the concept of “contemplation”, “mindfulness” or “reflection” can greatly facilitate a healthy level of awareness and “presence” thereby helping youth today to see more clearly and to widely embrace its application as a workable and valuable ongoing life practice. The average person immersed in their own thoughts, seldom becomes fully aware of what is actually going on around them. A good grasp of mindfulness is increasingly proving on so many levels that it is essential to the embracing of one’s personal effectiveness if one is to navigate, seek, and find human flourishing that includes a significant number of positive characteristics. For example,
Learning to experience clarity and peace of mind,
- Self-reflection and physical well-being, and the significant,
- Appreciating the other as s/he is, and
- Experiencing oneness and contributing to the common good for all of humanity.