June is my birthday month, and regardless of whatever milestone I encounter, more often than not some time and effort is spent reflecting.
The realisation that in the near future I shall no longer be recognised as a young person by someone else's measure hit me. If you were wondering: no, it's not this year but it's pretty shortly after!
Being part of an organisation and movement which has firmly placed its focus on believing in the power of inspired young people caused feelings of jadedness to creep up. Would I just be cast aside, forgotten about or no longer needed? Had I done anything worthy enough to be titled 'an inspired young person'?
The answers to both questions are futile – time for me to show you why.
June also happens to be the birthday month of the YMCA. 175 years ago, on June 6th 1844, the YMCA movement was founded by a fellow named Sir George Williams. He wasn't titled a sir then, but he was a person experiencing the throes and upheaval caused by the industrial revolution in the surrounds of London.
The stated reason for the YMCA beginning was to provide young men from rural areas travelling to cities for work with low-cost housing in a safe environment, and morphed into a movement providing recreation.
Picture this… a situation where the main things a young person can do, besides working all day on a factory floor, is visiting a pub or brothel. A solution was needed to provide consistent positive influences to young men (organised sport was still developing, and, err, being organised!).
The YMCA was such a solution.
It was a movement founded on providing young men from the country side with a connection to others and to themselves outside of a cycle focused purely on working and spending.
So… how does this apply to an almost 30+ male living in Melbourne, Australia?
Well, it was researching and reflecting on the times which the YMCA was birthed that made me realise this: the basis of this movement, all along, has been connection. Providing individuals an opportunity to connect with others, and themselves, in a meaningful manner which is not always readily available outside of school and sport.
Then it hit me: this connection is definitely not limited to young men in rural areas in south east 1840s England, as evidenced by its rapid growth over the ensuing years.
In the face of industrialisation it wouldn't only be the young who ventured forth to the cities to live, to survive and to connect. All people would be drawn to such areas, as evidenced by the YWCA also springing up at a similar time. Regardless of sex, age or occupation, connection to others would have been sought.
Not much has changed.
Society demands the exact same solution now. Much more so than 1840s London in my view.
Connection is sought in a world filled with social media, AI technology, Netflix and the common catch cry even I heard during my school days of 'the jobs you have aren't even invented yet!'
Almost every single other thing can be achieved pretty much instantaneously but a real connection with other human beings. A face to face experience with real, living, breathing humans who have conversations. Who share stories and create moments remembered throughout a lifetime.
The Y continues to provide this same solution - not only to young people in an arbitrary age bracket, for volunteers or staff members, for those living in the country or city, or however anyone identifies as, but to all.
Which is a pretty heartening thing to an almost jaded, almost 30 year old person.
The Y connects people.
Who knows… maybe the age range will be reviewed and extended. Irrespective of that – I am tremendously grateful for this reflection and invite you to try something similar. Who knows what connections you'll make and share.