Tens of thousands of teenagers — facing summer vacation with nothing to do — will soon spill onto city streets. The vast majority will waste three months. All too many will end up in trouble. Are YOU a teenager? Why not make YOUR summer vacation pay off?
NOT MANY years ago most communities looked forward to summer vacation. The picture of a barefoot lad wending his way to the fishing hole was still a common and cherished sight. Summer was pleasant and there was plenty to do. Oh, the kids might get under foot a little before September rolled around, but they weren't any real trouble. Yes, for those of us over thirty, looking back on the last day of school in May or June usually brings nostalgic remembrances. Summers were just as long and hot then, but not in the way we think of those terms today. There always seemed to be something to do, someplace to go, and an odd job to be had. Life was much simpler. Drinking, vandalism, and juvenile crime were things we vaguely heard about for the most part. Drugs were mysterious, ominous and all but unknown. The word "riot" wasn't even in the average youngster's vocabulary.
Summer is a Challenge
Unfortunately, that's all changed now. The picture of the boy wending his way to the fishing hole no longer portrays life in our urban society. Instead, today's youth more often faces a long, hot summer on steaming city streets — three months of boredom and frustration. As a result, summer has come to stand for trouble — big trouble! It is a time when juvenile vandalism skyrockets — when latent gang fights and riots simmer and erupt. It is a time when the temptation to indulge in drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, and youthful crime is greatest among masses of unsupervised, unemployed, and unmotivated teenagers just hanging around waiting for something to happen. But what about you? Are YOU a teenager? Are you going to live through another summer "accidentally"? Will it really solve your problems if you waste three months hanging around a street corner or drive-in waiting for something to happen? Think it over. You don't have to waste your time, you know. This could be the most stimulating and maturing summer of your life. Of course, you can cop out, be bored, make excuses, bellyache, and wallow around in self-pity if you want to. On the other hand you could decide to do something constructive with your time. It's entirely up to you.
Right Questions — Wrong Answers
Right about now some of you are thinking, "Yeah, constructive — what do you mean constructive?" O.K., let's just take a quick look at what we are talking about. Unless you are very different from most young people, the chances are that you are confused and frustrated with life. You have a lot of big nitty-gritty-type questions that nobody is answering for you. You're wondering just who you are, what you're here for, and where you are headed. You're wondering what life is all about anyway. You're wondering whether a little sex, or pot, or tobacco is really all that bad. You're wondering what success in life really is and how to achieve it. And, you're wondering how you can find happiness that satisfies and lasts. Right? Right! So, welcome to the human race! Man has been trying to solve these head-scratchers for centuries, you see, so you're not really different after all. No, you are no different from earlier generations, except that you are better informed and more insistent in your demands for answers, and that's all to your credit. But where are you looking for those answers? Do you really believe the answers to the big questions you're asking are to be found among the "pill-popping philosophers," the "pot-smoking pundits," or the "glue-sniffing gurus"? Do you really believe that shared ignorance plus blown minds equals enlightenment? Look, how can you get answers from people who have more hang-ups than you? That doesn't make sense!
Time for a Change
You may not realize it, but this so-called freethinking nonconformity, this down-with-the-world thing has been going on for a long, long time. There's nothing new about it. From the Beatniks right after World War II to the Hippies, Yippies, campus revolutionaries, or whatever is popular right now, it's basically been the same philosophy. And next week they may come up with another version. It's about like the old saying, "Same song fourth verse, could be better, but it's gonna be worse!" Yet for some strange reason, most young people have been trying to work out some kind of salvation that way for the past twenty years. Well, it hasn't worked; and unless we all want to admit to being slow learners, it ought to be time for a change!
New Definitions Needed
But a change to what? That's a tough question for youth today, because most of you have polarized and narrowed your approach to life until there seems to be only one route to go — 180° away from society. It's as if you denied the other 359° on the compass even existed. You haven't left yourselves any alternatives. And too, you have accepted too many distorted definitions. Freedom, for example, is not racial segregation, job discrimination, grinding poverty, or police brutality. But, neither is it an attitude of anarchy accompanied by an unwashed body, shaggy hair, a stoned mind, and a filthy mouth. Or, what about love? Of course love isn't the hypocritical, selfishly motivated almsgiving and back scratching you have observed in certain segments of our "religio-politico-economic" society. You're absolutely right! But, neither is it sexual license, "flower power," and free rock festivals. And then there's success. We both know it isn't the accumulation of wealth and power, but surely it can't be the rejection of honest labor in favor of panhandling and garbage picking either! Somewhere between these extremes there has to be understandable and acceptable middle ground — a balance. That's what we all need to shoot for, balance. But it will require new definitions. The old ones are too emotionally loaded — too prejudiced and misleading. Think for a moment. Is it possible that success, in the right sense, may not be a dirty word after all? Is it possible that, properly understood, it might even be worth a little effort to achieve? Yes, you would have to admit that. Then, can you begin to see what new horizons might open up if you would honestly and unemotionally analyze the definitions upon which you base your values? What do you want out of life anyway? Have you ever taken time to put it in simple words? Do you want good health? Do you want a sharp, sound mind? Do you want a stable, balanced personality? Do you want to understand the purpose of life? Do you want genuine, lasting happiness? Of course you do. You want all these things and more. But unless you're one in a million, you don't have them now. Why? The answer is simple. You need the right definitions. Look, if you don't know what good health is, how do you know whether the way you're living is healthy? And if you don't know what a balanced personality is, how do you know who to follow as an example? Somewhere you have to find reliable, authoritative, and unchanging definitions. Practical, workable formulas. Until you do, you will continue groping around just living by trial and error. Unfortunately, those errors can be painful — would you believe fatal? "But," you may be asking, "in this age of relativism can I find any reliable, authoritative, unchanging definitions and guidelines"? You certainly can! If you are really serious and willing to put forth some effort, you can make more personal progress in the next three months than you ever have before. You can find the answers to the big questions that affect you. Here's how.
Set Summer Goals
The first thing to do is get organized. Make a list of goals you intend to achieve this summer. You can decide for yourself what goals are personally important, but here are a few suggestions for a starter. Number one: Become an expert on the big issues of vital importance to society and the world. Unless you are very different from most teenagers, you want to develop maturity. Well, being informed is one trait that marks a mature person. Unfortunately, even with all the mass media available, most of us are still poorly informed of what is going on around us. For example, what do you really know about pollution? Why is it a problem? What forms does it take? What are the major causes? Is it only a problem in our country? What do the experts predict will occur if pollution is not checked? What can be done about it? Or, what do you really know about the drug problem? Who is mainly affected? What are the most common types of drugs? How do drugs affect your body and mind? How is drug abuse a social problem? What is being done to control the problem? And, there are many, many other important issues that affect your life such as crime, smoking, dating and marriage, and the worldwide population explosion. Chances are, right now you know very little about any of these problems, and yet, do you realize some of them actually affect the continued existence of life on our planet? That in itself ought to be reason enough to become informed about them. Number two: Discover how to achieve true success in life. Right now you have your own idea of what is success. But, did you ever ask yourself where you got that idea or whether it is really valid? Just what is success, after all? Are some of us simply destined to be failures while others automatically become successful? How can you go about becoming successful, anyway? Are there any guidelines or rules that you can follow which will guarantee success? When you investigate this question you may be very surprised indeed. Number three: Prove to yourself once and for all what is the truth about the origin of life and the universe around you. One of youth's biggest hang-ups today is called the "identity crisis." Young people are asking, "Who am I, where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?" The chances are pretty good you're asking the same questions. Well, how about it? What is your purpose for being alive? Have you ever looked into it? Isn't it about time you found some rational and satisfying answers that square with the known facts? This summer is the time to do it. Number four: Improve your physical and mental health. It is a strange paradox that in the U. S. — a land of fabulous wealth and abundance — doctors are warning that we are among the sickest people on earth. We have been called the most overfed and undernourished generation in history. We have also been called the most overmedicated nation in the world. And, as if that weren't enough, doctors also tell us our young people don't stack up in physical fitness with those of other countries. Now that's a pretty sad state of affairs, and unfortunately, it's all true. How about you? Do you really have the physical and mental vigor and drive you would like? Can you put in a full day of strenuous activity without collapsing by evening? How about meals? Are you eating a balanced and regular diet? How about pop, candy, ice cream and starch — too much maybe? How about exercise? Are you sitting too much? Are drugs or smoking ruining your health? Well, in order to answer these and other questions regarding your health, you will have to do some research. For example, you will need to find out what a balanced diet is. You will need facts on how certain foods affect your body, why you need exercise and what the physical effects of drugs, tobacco, caffeine and alcohol are. Of course, just getting the facts is only part of meeting your goal. The other part is putting this new knowledge into practice to begin improving your physical and mental health. Well, these are just some of the summer goals you can tackle. There are many more you might want to add. Certainly you ought to earn some money, try to learn a new sport, maybe even start on a musical instrument. And, by all means plan to give some service to your community. Worthwhile civic organizations are always short of volunteers. You will also find there is usually a need for tutors and helpers at Head Start schools or schools for the handicapped. Just check around your community. There's no shortage of opportunities to share yourself with people who need you.
Where Do You Begin?
Right about now you are probably thinking that such an undertaking would be absolutely impossible. How would a person ever find the time to do all those things? You're right. There is a lot to do. And if you're like every other normal human being, there are always more things to be done than time to do them. But more can be accomplished than you realize. This article has outlined some recommended summer goals. You undoubtedly will add more. But HOW to achieve your goals — that's the real challenge! And here is where the Extension Division of Ambassador College can help. At your request, we will send you free, a full-color booklet that will insure a successful summer — and future — IF you will read and apply the seven vital principles outlined in its pages. This remarkable booklet, titled The Seven Laws of Success, will provide you the practical framework for real lasting accomplishment! But nothing will be accomplished if you don't start somewhere. For your start, why don't you write for this booklet? And remember, you've got three months — better than two thousand hours — just ahead of you. It can only be lived once. What will you Do with that time? Will you live it accidentally, while your mind vegetates? Or, are you concerned about the world around you, arid want to prove to yourself, once and for all, what the real answers are? It's up to you! Why don't you act now? Write for The Seven Laws of Success, and begin the most fascinating and rewarding summer of your entire life.