More than any other month of the year, December reminds me of what I consider to be my most precious possession – the ability to make choices, every day, countless times each day. Wake to radio or music, eat cereal or eggs, drink coffee or tea, wear a shirt or sweater, read email or news first. Most of us make at least 20 choices before leaving the house each morning.
I inevitably enter the holiday season with too many end-of-year deadlines and too many competing plans for how I want to celebrate: gifts to make or buy and wrap, decorations to unpack, cookies to bake, cards to write… At some point, usually well after midnight for the umpteenth time, I grudgingly reacquaint myself with the physical laws that govern every 24 hours, and switch to plans B, C and D. (The first plan to be modified is holiday cards – while we want our friends and family to know how much they mean to us, these days we strive to send New Years Greetings and declare success if they are in the mail before Valentines Day.)
I used to be disappointed that I cannot do it all. But then I realized that every challenge I face, everything I “don’t get done” is the result of a choice I have made. None of my choices are forced upon me. None are life threatening, none will result in persecution of my family or friends, none will mean that my children will go to sleep hungry or lack the medicine they need to get better. At the most basic level, the very fact that I can choose where to work, how to use my time and who to spend it with is a gift.
Most of the teens we work with at Infinite Family come into the program with a very limited understanding of “choice” in their lives. One of the great gifts our mentors give their Net Buddies is the understanding that having choices is not an entitlement — we all must work hard to create choices for ourselves and, if they work hard, they can create new choices for themselves. Another is the importance of taking responsibility for the decisions they make today, and recognizing the consequences of decision-making to their future possibilities.
I am thankful for every day I am allowed to build and innovate with an incredible team in South Africa and the U.S. I am thankful for all of our community and corporate partners who choose to work with Infinite Family and invest in South Africa’s teens to help them make their own smart choices. And I am thankful to all of our incredible Video Mentors, Directors and Advisors who share their ideas, experience, time and resources to give the Gift of Choices to teens half a world away who are choosing to work hard to create better lives and stronger communities.
May your holiday season be filled with choices that keep you smiling!