Be mindful: tune into our youth
June 5, 2024
All in from St Paul’s Couva
June 5, 2024

Be mindful: tune into our youth

By Fr Stephan Alexander

General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR


“Our communication speaks to our needs.” I first heard that statement in 2011 during a meeting of young men and women discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Sr Julie Peters SSM, who facilitated the meeting, drew our attention to the importance and impact of our communication. We were urged to be aware and mindful of our needs since these are actively communicated via verbal and non-verbal means. Similarly, we were encouraged to be attentive to the communication of others to determine what they actually required from us.

We learned that much attention should be given to non-verbal communication since approximately 70 per cent of what we communicate in face-to-face conversations is based on body language, facial expression, and other cues.

Words amount to approximately 7 per cent of communication while the way we deliver those words, that is, our tone, pace, pitch etc. make up the rest of communication.

These figures may or may not be exact and they differ for non-face-to-face communication. However, they shed light on the requirement to go beyond words in deciphering the needs of those we communicate with.

Understanding this dynamic of communication has helped me to be more attentive to people and the various styles of human expression that form the basis of our communication.

It has led me to become more intentional in my attempt to honour the dignity of others. I’ve found that as I ‘listen’ more closely and become more aware of the needs of the people that I communicate with, I’m able to honour them in more impactful ways.

Several of the key principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) have helped to guide my responses. In addition to prioritising the basic requirement of honouring the dignity of each person, I’m able to recognise when I should act in solidarity with someone, help create spaces for them to participate in the life of society or encourage them to act in situations where they can achieve results themselves.

Music and song are among the several styles of human expression that I’ve become attentive to. Our artistes and particularly our youth have long been communicating with us via these genres, yet we often ignore the depth of their lyrical content and ridicule their creative output by unfair comparisons with the music of our generation.

If we listen to them, we will be able to discern their needs and respond with care. I’ve recently been reflecting on the song ‘Pray’ written and performed by Aaron ‘Voice’ St Louis.

On May 10, Voice unofficially released the track via his Instagram account. He premiered the music video on his YouTube channel on May 17 and later released the song on all digital platforms on May 20.

The song-writing ability, storytelling skills and musicianship of this brilliant Soca artiste communicates a reality that he shares with many of our youths. While he writes on behalf of his generation, he is also expressing his own emotions and thoughts as confirmed via his Instagram account on May 23.

The song features honest revelations that communicate the fact that many of our youths “eh really doing well”, that they are “depressed and messed up too, cause every day is something new” so they “cyar sleep at night cause [dem] ah bleed and cry”.

Voice’s lyrics exposes the perception among youths that they have “no shoulder to lean on” and no one to talk to because “meh brethrens have problems, too” so he asks us to “pray for meh” so he could have the “confidence to talk” and express what he’s going through.

He implores “Somebody hold meh hand and walk”. Why? … because “I is human, too. I is people, too”.

These poignant words are rendered a thousand times more impactful because of Voice’s depiction in the music video. It is dark and passionate, painful yet hopeful. The metric of communication is clearly demonstrated as his tone, pitch, and intonation along with the set design, his clothing, movements, and the minimalist environment conveys a level of isolation and other powerful emotions that could otherwise be overlooked if we focus only on his words.

The reminder that “I is HUMAN, too. I is PEOPLE, too” communicates the feeling among youths that their dignity isn’t being honoured and respected. Hence, it’s an invitation to address the way we treat our youth to better care for them and their needs.

Let’s be mindful that this song was gradually released between May 10 to 23. During that period, the International Day of Families was celebrated (May 15). Perhaps Voice knew this fact. Maybe he is calling on families to be attentive and involved. Hence, he sings, “ah know my family’s there to console me but overthinking still keeps me lonely”.

The social justice challenge requires us to become mindful of the struggles faced by young people and to honour their human dignity as we work for their protection and nurturing.

So “if yuh dey” and can hear then “the next time yuh talk to Jah call meh name”. Please, call the names of our children, of the youth in our communities, our parishes, and our country when next you pray and be mindful of their humanity as you relate with them.

Let us look beyond their words, discern their needs, and respond out of love.


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