Be The Hero You’ve Been Waiting For
By Yvonne and Rich Dutra-St. John, MA MFT
Co-Founders of Challenge Day
Our world is ready, now more than ever before, for heroes to emerge. Even though most of us grew up with images of super heroes with magical powers, complete with capes, wands, and armor, real life super heroes can appear in many forms.
What if we are ALL the HEROES we’ve been waiting for?
If we take the time to notice and feel what is happening in the world around us and to really listen to the voice in our hearts, we believe we all have the power inspired by Mohandas Gandhi to “be the change we wish to see in the world!”
Twenty-eight years ago we answered the call from our own hearts. Having experienced years of being teased and bullied in school, we committed ourselves to ensuring that our kids would not have to face the same pain and isolation.
In 1987, we created and led our first Challenge Day program. Our goal was to end the separation, isolation and loneliness that so many young people experience in school. When we were in school, we learned how to read, write, and do math—we even learned how to drive a car—but no one taught us how to deal with the thoughts and feelings we carried inside us every day, or how to connect with other human beings in a deep and honest way.
The program was beyond our wildest dreams. Teens and adults came together as every line of separation came down. Young people who had previously been teasing and fighting with one another were now standing up, apologizing and
forgiving one another. Uniting as a group, young people from every clique and social group on campus came together hugging in celebration as they realized they had much more in common than different.
A moment that will be etched in our hearts forever came at the time in our program when young people are given the chance to speak out, to step up as leaders and use their voices to create the school and relationships of their dreams. The captain of the football team grabbed the microphone as members of his team followed behind him one by one. He stood in front of a young woman who had just cried about being teased and called fat. With tears running down his cheeks, he looked her right in the eyes and said, “I am so sorry for the years of teasing and hurting that me and my friends have caused you, and as long as we are here on this campus, it will never ever happen again.” Then he stepped forward and hugged her. In that moment we looked at one another sobbing, and we knew Challenge Day would become our life’s work.
Since that first day we are proud to say that Challenge Day has touched and inspired millions of people around the world.
Our Vision is to create a world where every child feels safe, loved and celebrated. That’s not just every young person but the child that lives in each and every one of our hearts. We are determined to unite people of different shapes, sizes, skin colors, and genders, as well as different religious beliefs and sexual orientations. Although society teaches tolerance, we believe that if we settle for tolerance, we have failed. If our kids don’t experience love and connection in their schools, how will they ever believe that peace on earth is possible? Our goal is to bring people together in love.
At Challenge Day we teach people our simple three step Formula for Change: NOTICE, CHOOSE & ACT.
1. NOTICE – Wake up! Notice what is happening around you.
2. CHOOSE – Dream it! What do you choose to change?
3. ACT – Step into action – Be the hero you’ve been waiting for – take one step forward towards your dream and celebrate yourself for acting.
Learn more about Challenge Day at www.challengeday.org