SEABROOK SAYS: Tony Sigmon is the leader of the Gaston County Family YMCA which has five operational facilities. When the Y’s $18 million new facility is ready, Gaston County may well have the best in America. Tony writes on HOPE. Read on and commit to give it your thought time. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
When my friend Bill Seabrook asked if I would write an article for “Digging Deeper,” it immediately hit me what I wanted to cover. In a time like this, in a place like this, we all need a good healthy dose of Hope in our lives. For several years I have been pondering the question, “what is our greatest need?” Looking around and seeing the unrest locally and abroad, observing the current political climate, seeing young people put off adulthood longer now than ever and seeing yet others have to jump into adulthood way too early; all of this brings me to my next question, where is the hope? Some get so busy with day to day and yet others find ways to escape reality. There seems to be a huge void of hope in our world.
Last week I had the pleasure of serving my 22nd year at the YMCA’s Blue Ridge Leaders School in Black Mountain, NC. This “school” is a week long program where 700 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 from YMCAs throughout the South experience a physical education and leadership development training school so that they can become better leaders for their home YMCAs and communities. Once again I was reminded what “Hope” looks like and through the eyes of a young person. At the school there are eight 17/18 year olds who serve the school, having been selected the previous year as the “best of the best.” They are called Honor Leaders. Two of those Honor Leaders shared a reflection on HOPE. Instead of listening to me pontificate, here is some of what they had to say.
Hope. A small word, with a large meaning. It plays a different role in each of our lives and there are many ways to define it. Hope is looking towards the future with a clear vision. Hope is acknowledging the uncertainty that is possible in any given situation. Hope is our motivation to continue persevering through a difficult situation. Often, hope is the idea we cling to when all our efforts have failed. That small word, with such an incredible meaning, is essential to having a healthy spirit and mind. Throughout different experiences in life, we have a persistent twinge of hope that the best outcome will be in our favor. During these times, where do we find hope? Often we turn to temporary gratifications such as social media, negative attention or bad habits. But they are just that, temporary and usually unhealthy. Ultimately, this leaves us unsatisfied and wanting more. When we find hope in temporary satisfactions, we are restricting ourselves from experiencing the hope that God provides us every day.
Think back to when you were a young child. Can you recall just how simple life was then? We were surrounded by stories of happily ever afters, courageous heroes and victorious underdogs. As children we have so much hope around us every day that it’s hard to be anything but positive. The older we get, the realities of life alter our pure sight of this hope and it becomes more and more blurred. Although we no longer cling to fictional stories to instill our hope, we have things that we do believe in. For us and so many more we have the YMCA. Here we see hope in action. We see it when the dreams of an underprivileged child come true, when a struggling parent receives the financial assistance she needs to allow her children to attend camp or afterschool so she can work without worrying about them, or when a lonely widower gets time to socialize while they exercise in classes at the Y. As leaders, it is our responsibility to use the hope we receive every day and spread it to others. We all of have the potential to be someone’s hero.
When I hear an 18 year old talk like that to a group of 700 teens and 200 adults, I am inspired. It ignites a Hope in me that I want to share with others. Our local community is right at that “Tipping Point” and there are so many great things that inspirational leaders are doing here in Gaston County. My closest and favorite example is the New Y at Robinwood Lake. To be a part of this incredible community lifting project is amazing, but working alongside leaders like Andy Warlick, Gene Matthews, George Henry, Richard Rankin, Steve Huffstetler, May Barger and Frank Craig is beyond a blessing to me. Seeing so many more people excited to the point that they give the largest gifts that they have ever given to any project is a testament to leadership, inspiration and hope. It is also a focused energy that creates a best of the best attitude and an excitement that is unparalleled. My hope is that this is a beginning for Gastonia and Gaston County to see how bringing energy, vision, community and leadership together around a common cause brings great hope and makes dreams come true. We have great potential to thrive as leaders, as community and as a county. Now, “go be someone’s hero.”
CEO, Gaston County Family YMCA