Sunday, July 3, 2016


By Jon Dunnemann

Conformity with a group, it's customs, practices and beliefs is a fairly natural occurrence in our lives. In fact, there are times in which we have little choice but to conform if we are to have a number of our most basic needs met. In such instances, we will try our very best to gravitate towards a place of welcoming, comfort in some measure, and protection.

As a former foster youth in the State of New Jersey, I had to join a different family more than once over the course of several years in order to avoid being homeless, starving or being physically or sexually abused. I did not always know what kind of situation I was getting myself into or whether the long-term impact of that specific living arrangement would be a positive experience. My primary objective at the time was always to simply make the best of the situation while being hopeful for a good outcome. Sadly, a common alternative for many disadvantaged teenagers today in getting their needs met is addressed by their joining a neighborhood gang.  

Often I have stopped to ask myself, where would I be now without the grace of good people and second-chances? Only God knows. The truth is, that I was rescued, again and again both from external harm and at other times from general misguidedness.

It was the named and the nameless that saw fit to intervene in my life. Through other people's acts of compassion, charity and love I learned how and became committed to practicing making better choices in my daily life. 

Without other people's tremendous generosity and support, I most likely would have ended up as an angry, anxious, disruptive and possibly even violent 'gansta' youth. I could very easily have just become another typical black male statistic. I was raised by a single mother on welfare who suffered from alcoholism and depression, and who had three children to raise. Of course, like any child would, I felt in my heart that we all deserved a much better family situation.

Eventually, I found myself left with three choices: be a victim, a by product or a 'breakout artist'. Quite unknowingly at the time, I chose to be the latter of the three, someone who escapes the grips of complicated living, a poverty of poor habits and thinking, and desperately seeks to eventually find the answers that will facilitate becoming more greatly empowered to do things for myself. And, if I could do it, well then, I firmly believe that you can too.

You do not have to unquestionably conform to others. Choose who you intend to become and then do you!!