medicines without prescriptions

What do you GET to do?

April 8th, 2016

A repost from our friend and colleague, Anderson Williams,

Anyone who knows me knows I can drop the occasional four-letter word. (I am perhaps being kind to myself here.) But, with a four-year-old and two-year-old at home, I pay more attention than ever to my words.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been difficult to avoid cursing in front of them. It really hasn’t. But, paying attention to those words has made me more cognizant of all words I use in front of them. It’s sort of like eating habits: if you give up sweets, you end up paying more attention to the other things you eat too!

My four-letter-word diet has illuminated a much worse practice: confusing the terms “have to” and “get to”.

My habit first jumped out at me one day when I caught myself telling my daughters that they “have to” go to school (daycare, but we say school) on Monday. I stopped and thought: “what a terrible message!” My girls love their school. They love everything about it (except maybe nap time). We hear all weekend about their teachers and friends and the games they played in the gym. They love it. And, here I am sending the message, or at least emphasizing, that it is compulsory; they “have to” go.

No, my girls “get to” go to school, and they acknowledge that by their desire to be there. They also “get to” go because they are part of a family that values education, has the resources and flexible enough jobs to allow for the opportunity. They “get to” go to school for many reasons that we as parents, and they as children, should always be cognizant of.

I was so mad at myself for such a poor choice of words!

And then, I did it again!

My wife and girls and I were heading out of the house somewhere and I said: “first, we have to go grab some lunch.” Have to!? Really?

At least, this time I caught myself and restated – “First, we get to go grab some lunch.” We get to go to a restaurant. We get to be together. We get to eat a meal that we enjoy. To suggest we “have to” diminishes everything about the experience we were about to share, and moves emphasis toward some other event we “get to” do later.

There have obviously been countless other times I have failed in this word choice, and almost certainly there will be more as I break the habit. Just last week, I said: “I have to go vote!” But, breaking this seemingly simple habit is core to who I am and how I want to raise my daughters.

This distinction between “get to” and “have to” isn’t about decency or manners or appropriateness like we think about with four-letter words. It’s about privilege. It’s about humility, being thankful, being present. It’s about acknowledging your own experiences and opportunities and those of others. It’s about your approach to life, not taking things for granted.

So, bring on the four-letter words, but let’s please not pretend we “have to” do things that we really “get to”. That’s a pretty [expletive]-ed up message to send to our kids.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #7

December 14th, 2015

This week’s final recipe (for now) from our Tiny Teach  workshop activities has a nice winter time flavor.  Though shared by another, I can speak to this one – it’s similar to one I learned from a professor in college.  Yummy!

Spice Cake

  • spice cake mix
  • can of apple pie filling
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Mix the first three ingredients.  Mix sugar and cinnamon together.  Alternately layer in a greased pan cake mix, topping, cake mix, topping . . .

Bake for 40 minutes at 325 for dark pan or at 350 for a light pan.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #6

December 7th, 2015

This week’s recipe that we learned from participants who played Tiny Teach in one of our workshops is all about being easy.


Doritos Melt

Crunch Doritos ad place on the bottom of the pan. Cover them with pre-cooked hamburger meat (1 pound). Layer more Doritos and cheese on top. Place in a 350 oven and heat until cheese is melted.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #5

November 30th, 2015

In our series on recipes shared with us from participants who played Tiny Teach in our workshops, here’s this week’s recipe, an easy one after Thanksgiving!

Scalloped Potatoes & Meat

  • 1 box of scalloped potatoes
  • cream of chicken soup (or mushroom)
  • chicken (or pork chops)

Mix the scalloped potatoes with cream of chicken soup and put in a crock-pot. Lay chicken or pork chops on top. Cook on low all day while at work.

Tiny Teach: Recipe #4

November 23rd, 2015

Our game Tiny Teach from Great Group Games has worked so well for us that we created a different version for younger children. It’s called Little Professors, Little Einsteins (Great Group Games for Kids).  It follows the same principle of sharing and teaching but adds prompts to help younger youth think more concretely about what they know how to do from given categories such as games, sports, or . . . the kitchen.

And speaking of kitchens, here is this week’s recipe shared by a participant who played Tiny Teach with us in one of our workshops.  A quick recipe you can use to bring to the Thanksgiving potluck!

2 Minute Fudge

Mix Reese’s pieces with vanilla icing. Nuke for 1 minute.  Stir. Nuke every 10 seconds until completely melted. Spread in pan and put in fridge to set.


Tiny Teach: Recipe #3

November 16th, 2015

One of the best times that Ann and I have in our professional development workshops is watching participants teach each other skills and knowledge when we lead the game, Tiny Teach.  We have laughed and learned so much more about the people in the room and what they like to do.

Recipes are one of the most popular sharings from the group (as is dancing!).  Here is our third week’s pick of recipes we’ve learned.  Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Pie

Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar

Crumb Mixture Ingredients

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder

Pie Completion Ingredients

  • 3 inch pie crust, baked
  • 3 cups whipped cream

To make pudding:

Mix corn starch, salt, 1 cup of milk, egg yolks and vanilla with a wire whisk and set aside.  Heat 3 cups of milk, with the butter and sugar until scalding, stirring constantly. Add cornstarch mixture to hot milk while stirring with whisk. Cook until thickened. Remove from heat before boiling.

Place pudding in refrigerator to chill. Stir every 10 minutes.

To make crumb mixture:

Mix powdered sugar, cocoa, and peanut butter until small crumbs form (with mixer).

Place 1/2 crumbs into pie shell. Spoon pudding onto crumbs. Place remaining crumbs on top of pudding, reserving a little for the topping. Top with whipped cream (homemade is best, but cool whip will work).

Tiny Teach: Recipe #2

November 9th, 2015

In our second week of sharing recipes we’ve learned from the game Tiny Teach, we want to share 1 tip for the game to go along with the recipe.

Tip:  Use Tiny Teach (from Great Group Games) for youth-adult pairings.  This game is the perfect opportunity to help youth and adults realize that they have much to share and learn from each other.  Over the years we have frequently used this game to even the playing field as we prep youth and adults to serve together on boards.  Since both get to teach whatever they want, whatever it is they know something about, it allows them both to be both teacher and learner . . . and begins to create the ground work for mutual respect.

You can gain more games and activities to use in workshops and trainings from our book Get Things Going.

Now for the recipe:

Fruit Dip

  • 1 8 oz. bar of Philly cream cheese – let set at room temperature
  • 1 small jar of Smuckers caramel sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 box of powdered sugar
  • white bread
  • butter
  • cinnamon
  • sugar

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine cream cheese and caramel sauce.  Blend cream cheese mix with 1 egg yolk and a box of powdered sugar. Melt butter and mix with cinnamon and sugar.

Take the bread; roll it out with a pin to flatten and cut off the crust.  Smear onto the bread the blended mix, and then roll it up and dip it in a butter, cinnamon, sugar mix.

Bake for 10 minutes.

What’s your favorite dip for the holidays?

Tiny Teach: Recipes

November 2nd, 2015

Ann and I frequently use the game Tiny Teach (from our books, Great Group Games) in some of our trainings with youth workers and educators. In this game, pairs have a limited amount of time to teach each other something they know about or know how to do. For example, someone might share how to shoot a perfect free throw, count to 10 in a different language, a dance step or . . . a favorite recipe.

We have learned many recipes over the years and thought with the holidays right around the corner that we would share a few from our files this month. Check back each Monday to gain a new recipe! Bon appetite!

Hungry Jack Casserole
Brown 1 pound of ground beef with onion, salt and pepper. Add B & M’s baked beans, tomato sauce and 1 cup of barbeque sauce; mix.  Cook until it bubbles.

Put mixture into a casserole dish; cover with 1 cup (or more) of cheddar cheese.

Take canned biscuits and tear into halves.  Layer biscuits on top of the mixture.  Put in oven and follow directions for biscuits to get the oven temp and how long to cook.

Suggestion serve with salad and mashed potatoes.

Youth Heroes and Financial Advocacy

June 5th, 2015

A group of inner-city teenagers signed up for an eight weeks financial literacy course offered by Community Impact in East Nashville, Tennessee that matched savings and financial literacy. At the end of the course, they opened a mandatory savings account for college that Community Impact matched (up to $40 per month). First, the youth learned about saving money, balancing a checkbook and interest. Then at the end of the course, the teenagers had to put a minimum of $10 per month into their account that they had earned (had to show they had earned it). The agency would write a check to the college of the young person’s choice when the time came for them to enroll. (The agency also did a match of monies for the stipend to increase the amount beyond the percentage of the savings.)


After taking classes, one young person said, “This is great for us, but my mom needs to know this stuff. My aunt doesn’t know this. My sister has a bill collector at her door. What about them? How can this help them?”


The youth did research and were trained to lead the financial literacy classes. Stipends were now paid to youth when they took on leadership roles, and they started doing the research and offering the classes. They offered the classes in churches, school, and community centers (wherever they were welcomed). They taught their families, friends and neighbors valuable skills in managing money.


As time went on, they realized that there were forces working against them: predatory lending laws to be exact. These laws include pawn shops, rent-to-own, title lending, payday lending (where people could borrow money upfront against their upcoming pay checks against two weeks of interest). These various places work against the poor and continue to oppress them and keep them trapped in a cycle of dependence.


“How can businesses do this to us? How can they get away with this?” asked on of the youth in the program. The youth group started doing what they have historically done for the past five years. They started doing research. Students started doing research to understand what was happening and what these places were and why they could do what they were doing.


They started asking questions of businesses and lawyers and other leaders and members of the community. As of the writing of this book, they are currently exploring how they might change the laws that regulate predatory loans to expose the injuries and make right the injustice that is being done towards low-income neighborhoods.


Anderson Williams reflects on how the program has moved through the crawl, walk, run stages itself.


‘We began to crawl when we moved out of purely adult led workshops to students starting to take on roles in leading financial education sections of our workshops.


‘We began to walk at the point when youth started asking questions ‘what about my family?’ Our walk stage was trigged by questions that led to youth starting to do research about these issues that were specific to their neighborhoods. They turned their research into workshops to educate the community.


‘Then we started our run phase when youth said how can we affect policy? Our youth are building a broader coalition of interested community folks to look at policy and loop holes in policy that allows businesses to prey on low-income communities.


‘This was a natural evolution over five years that looked ahead to say ‘where does this go and how do we have more impact with this work?’


Anderson goes on as he thinks through what he’s learned about developing youth partners. ‘The development over time is key. The growth came by baby steps. We didn’t start thinking we would address piracy issues. We did one project, then in reflection thought about how we could go deeper with the process. “Go interview someone. Find out what someone else thinks.” Talking to others fuels itself, it fuels the process so that it doesn’t become static.


‘Our kids received financial education and said ‘yeah, but’ – there is an inherent interest in being more valuable in the work, having a bigger impact in the work and being more connected.


‘It’s not just that interviewing a homeless person, for example, validates them, it makes you want to do more, to find out more. Interviewing homeless people and finding out why they were there leads to a new understanding of the issue and may spark within a young person a desire to go into medical care or address Medicaid issues.


‘Our role as adults is to keep pushing that next opportunity to deeply engage youth, that next angle of learning and depth of the issue we’re exploring. We need to keep pushing the process further, keep pushing the thought process in reflection. As adults, our responsibility is to see where it could go.’

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

6 Strategies for Building Intergenerational Relationships with Youth

May 6th, 2015

Life is not meant to be lived in silos. Humans are hard-wired to connect with others. Young people benefit from meeting different people and working side-by-side on projects as they engage in service and conversation. Find a way to generate interactions with people of various cultures, ages, and lifestyles. Bring them into your classroom or program, plan activities to do with them, visit people who are different from your youth in some way.

Here are 6 strategies that you might consider:

  1. Invite other staff to share their sparks, and make them aware of the interests of your particular youth. This way, other adults can offer encouragement and build connections with your students. Encourage conversations. Encourage questions.
  2. Consider bringing older adults into your building for an intergenerational talent show, a painting class, or a Martin Luther King Day event.
  3. Invite families to bring babies, toddlers, teens, and grandparents to your program often, so you can get to know them. Encourage cross-age mentoring, reading clubs, or nature walks together.
  4. Plan quarterly field trips or do service projects side-by-side with youth from a refugee center or a school for children with disabilities.
  5. Challenge your youth to continually seek relationships through which they can grow and also help others grow. Relationships are transformational—they are the source of constant character development.
  6. Connect youth with classes and people who share similar sparks and interests. If they are interested in cooking, for instance, help them find out about cooking resources around town and online.

This is an excerpt from our new book, Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.  Check it out to help educators, coaches and youth workers find more ways to bring out the best in young people!

Classic Children’s Books

April 13th, 2015

The library is so vast, that it’s sometimes hard to know where to start looking for good books.  Check out this list of classic youth stories from my friend Mary Young:

Where the red fern grows
Wrinkle in time
Island of the blue dolphins
My side of the mtn.   The Hobbit
Chronicles of narnia
Treasure island
Swiss family Robinson
Robin hood
Black beauty
The black stallion
Treasures of the snow
Little house on the prairie
Little women.
Johnny tremain
Little men

Youth Heroes and Safe Driving

April 10th, 2015

The slogan of Jacobs High School Project Ignition in Illinois is “In the Blink of an Eye – Think Before You Drive”. JHS Students have adopted safe driving as their service-learning theme. Last year student leaders planned 30 different projects to promote safe driving.


  • They educated students on safe driving skills through Safety Week, accident simulations, student-made signs around campus and a movie about common driving distractions. Their Seatbelt Check increased student seatbelt wearing from 70% to 98%.
  • They created a Safety Town to educate children about safety at home and in the community.
  • They educated parents through a presentation called, “How to Crash Proof Their Kids” and a parent/student handbook with 30 driving lessons.
  • They even had a prom re-enactment crash to educate students on the dangers of drinking alcohol. The event included a fake crash on their football field, a smoking car, a helicopter flying injured passengers to the hospital, and a funeral procession. For the first time in the school’s 30-year history, there were no alcohol incidents on prom night.


These students are serious about creating a community of safe drivers. You can read more about their stories at You can also read more stories from State Farm Project Ignition grantees at

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Youth Heroes go to Mexico with their Families

March 27th, 2015

‘At our church in San Diego, California, we started leading family mission trips between Christmas and New Years,’ Julie Stevens recalls. ‘The basic idea was for 100 people from infant to 70 years old to go to Mexico and lead Vacation Bible School, build classrooms on a school, and at nights offer intergenerational services.


‘It was a great bonding time within families. They worked together on a common goal. The adults went out of their way to include kids (it took longer to build a classroom or what have you, but they took the time to make it happen).


‘The kids learned to see outside themselves and how good they have it, but the adults also learned the same lesson: I have it better than I think I did. To have a whole family see that and to value family at the same time, they were able to see they shouldn’t take things for granted and were able to see how they worked together in a 3rd world country. The could see how families in another country value each other and take care of each other. The saw people who have peace and don’t take for granted the basic things in life.


‘The 1st year we built houses and did VBS in a dump. The next year we built two classrooms and did VBS. All the kids would be on the side playing with kids in the neighborhood in the dump – soccer was very popular.


‘Our kids also shared their faith with the kids they got to know there in Mexico. There was one boy, Enrique, that was there every day that the kids got to know well. The kids would show Enrique their favorite story in the Bible and he would look it up in his Bible to read it in his language.


‘I had been teaching them stories and they were able to turn around and share their favorite stories with their new friends in Mexico.’ Julie explains. ‘It completed the circle of sharing with each other. They ended up taking my Bible (Pastor Julie’s) and every kid circled their favorite verses in the Bible and gave it to Enrique before they left.


They did it at the end of the trip when we had a ceremony to give the keys to the family we had built a home for. That’s when they also gave the Bible to Enrique.’

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!

Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

February 9th, 2015

This has been one of our most popular workshops over the last few years.  Young people yearn to live a life full of meaning and purpose.  Caring adults are critical in helping youth discover and achiever their purpose.  This highly engaging workshop will teach youth workers and educators tricks and tips for helping youth find their sparks and cast a vision for their lives.

title: Engaging Youth: Finding and Connecting with a Sense of Purpose

description: The latest research on “sparks” shows that when youth know and can name their sparks, then good things happen – in schools, in themselves and for their lives. This lively session will educate participants on sparks; how sparks connect to developing a sense of purpose; and ideas for cultivating them in youth. Experience and learn for yourselves some fun, interactive venues for youth to identify strengths, resources and goals for themselves that they can carry with them into adulthood.

time: 2 hours

Audience:  youth workers, educators, parents

Contact us if you want to bring this workshop to your organization – 615-262-9676 or


Youth Heroes: Helping Teens with Challenges

January 30th, 2015

‘There was a young lady from a youth group in Las Vegas, Nevada who had a brother with mental challenges,’ Tony Ganger recalled.


In the group, she had shared her family’s frustration with getting quality services and opportunities for him. The group decided they wanted to take this issue on as a project focus.


Over the next several weeks, the group worked to identify organizations that worked and served people with challenges (mental, physical, etc.). As the youth group talked with individuals at each of the agencies, they discovered that all the organizations weren’t connected. They didn’t know what each agency offered or how to refer individuals to the best services.


The youth saw that they could do something to make things better for their community. They hosted a meeting and invited all the agencies that served people with challenges to meet together. The youth group got things rolling by starting the conversation with the agencies so that everyone could find out what others were doing and what services they provided.


From this bit of research and organization led by youth, the community agencies started doing collaborative projects together. The youth continued on from that point to offer an on-going class (a 4-6 week program) for teens with challenges. The various community organizations provided the leadership for each session’s topics (grocery shopping to having a bank account to recreational activities) and the youth group would also attend to develop relationships with the class’ participants.

Reprinted with permission from our book Ready to Go Service Projects: 140 Ways for Youth Groups to Lend a Hand. Find more ways to help youth engage their skills, talents and passions in serving the community by picking up your own book at your favorite online bookseller OR bring us to your school, church or community organization to lead service-learning workshop!