The Original Social Network: Why a Leading Psychologist Made a Commitment of Support
By Gerard J. Bryant, Ph.D.
When it comes to diversity, New York is the best city in the world. Kids have an opportunity to interact with kids from all over the planet, and the exposure they get to cultures and language is fantastic. These opportunities help kids' independence and life skills.
On the other hand, society as a whole has grown more dangerous - and that's one reason why the YMCA is so important. The Y is the only place I can think of in the city where you see everyone from babies to seniors mingling in the same place.
The Y is truly a family environment - but it's not just family: it's the entire community and the staff, too. You feel connected to the staff when you walk past the membership desk. You get that community feeling when you walk in there and everybody knows you. It's like the song from Cheers: you want to go where everybody knows your name. It's togetherness.
A Commitment to Kids
In today's world, kids need a place to go to feel safe, to feel included and to develop their interpersonal, academic and social skills.
If children see that you as an adult are committed and loyal to the Y, you hope that a few of them are going to stick with it. If they see your commitment, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps and carry on that love of the Y into their adult lives.
Kids and families need the Y. With technology, games and smartphones, kids are often distracted from real life. The Y is still the one haven where people can come, interact, be social and enjoy things together. The Y is the original social network.
My first paying job was at the Y. Who I am today was largely because of my Y experience. From the Y I learned I wanted to be a teacher. Later I looked into psychology, but the Y definitely had an influence on the profession I chose.
At a certain point, I decided that I wanted to be a part of the Y in a larger way. My goal was to ensure that the Y can continue to provide opportunity for kids in the future who would not otherwise have the economic means to join.
Look at the big picture and where the Y fits into it: What can the Y contribute to the community? Being a board member is a personal way of giving back, but joining the Heritage Society gave me more of a stake and a commitment that was attractive to me. I wanted to see to it that the Y will be there for future generations.