Like most, I entered 2020 bright eyed and bushy tailed, (whatever that means). I had set my goals and resolutions and was ready for whatever the year had in store for me. But, I don’t think anybody could have predicted all that was to unfold over the last 12 months.
As many of us were forced to spend our time constrained to our homes we saw disheartening news stories plastered on our tv screens. But for every example of something bad, there were many more stories of people stepping up in courage and selflessness that oftentimes went unreported.I know this is cliche, but the worst of times really can bring out the best in people.
Over the last year, our youth leaders at UKSD were eager to help the community during COVID. Watching these young people donate supplies to shelters, support those most affected by the pandemic (such as the elderly and teachers), and create social media positivity challenges, was really a full circle moment for me. Almost a decade ago, I began my journey with UKSD. First, a young participant with no idea who she wanted to be or what she wanted to do. Then, a youth leader with a passion to change the world. Now, a board member with that same passion, but a stronger desire to instill that passion to change the world (and the opportunities to actually do it) in the youth members that we work with.
So, as I watched this year unfold, and observed all the projects that these young adults raised their hands to do, it validated for me the power of the UKSD mission. As UKSD has evolved over the years, one mission has always been at the core of the work we do. Although the tool we use is soccer, the foundation of our program has always been to educate young people about social issues, to create the next generation of youth leaders through positive community interactions, and to allow the opportunity for teenagers to create the change they want to see in the world.
I’d like to think that I am a prime example of what our programs can do for someone, and all that I have learned through my ongoing journey with UKSD really was at the center of what got me through 2020.
Here are a few of those lessons:
1. Find happiness in the little things
A lesson I learned early on with UKSD is that the smallest things in life are what matters most. Having everything shut down, cancelled or taken away from us brought the opportunity to find the joy in the small things.
2. Make self-care a priority
You know how the saying goes, health really is wealth. Health and wellness is always at the forefront of our programs and is literally the tool that we use to teach the other valuable lessons. This year, taking care of mental and physical wellbeing was more challenging than ever. But knowing how important it is to make it a priority was crucial.
3. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted
As I travelled around the world with UKSD over the years and met people who lived drastically different lifestyles than myself, I learned fast that you should never take anything for granted. Whether it was the loss of a loved one, not being able to celebrate a special occasion with the ones you love, or anything else, the lesson to not take anyone or anything for granted seemed more evident than ever before this year.
4. Choose Kindness all of the time
Above all, the power of kindness, big or small was illuminated this year.UKSD has instilled in me that it’s always a good idea to choose kindness. Seeing the good through the obstacles that the year presented to all of us may have been difficult, but it truly helped me get through.
So, even though I have no idea what 2021 will look like, I’m confident that UKSD has given me a lot of tools to help navigate it. As we all say goodbye to 2020, my new year’s wish is that we walk into 2021 holding tight to the good that we saw and the lessons we learned along the way.
As UKSD has evolved over the years, one mission has always been at the core of the work we do. The foundation of our program is developing community minded youth leaders, while enabling them to foster a desire to make an impact locally, as well as globally.
We work with teens throughout Cape Cod and the South Shore, teaching them to use soccer as a means of community connection, education, self-identity awareness, diversity appreciation, and as a means by which they can develop both their soccer skills and their character.
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