First Friday Message

"Real Talk"

Early last year, I got away on a “fellas” trip to Vegas. It was my first trip there in at least twenty years and will likely be my last trip there for at least the next ten. Let’s be clear… I had a great time for about 2 days, but every hour past that was overkill.

The best part of the trip for me was the dedicated time of unfiltered (and mostly nonsensical!) guy talk. We covered everything from sports, politics, fatherhood, marriage, weight gain, hair loss, and many other topics that are vowed to complete secrecy. Most of us undoubtedly embellished on a story or two, but when someone needs to get a rare point across that is serious and should be heard by all, they start the comment with “Real Talk: I heard this…” or “Real Talk: My doctor said that…”.

In my friendship circle, using “Real Talk” in a sentence is a call to action that elicits active listening and clear minds.

I’ve had quite a bit of Y travel lately and most recently visited Atlanta with 3,500 staff and volunteer leaders from across the county. As I’ve shared in previous messages, I am grateful for the time that our volunteers contribute to our Y, and I cherish when they get to see the Y through a national and international lens.

On this trip, I witnessed a couple of volunteers having some Real Talk with each other as they talked about their respective interactions with the Y. Between the two, they have well over three decades of faithful Y involvement, but their journeys to the Y are starkly different. As they got to know each other better through their differences, I reflected on the power of conversation and friendships in the Y.

A casual observer in our Ys will see many of the obvious signs of an active, member-centered YMCA – flyers promoting programs and, at this time of year, the abundant artwork of our aspiring artists in day camp. But if you look a little deeper, in the spaces that members carve out for themselves, you’ll find the evidence of the power of real talk amongst members and friendships that have been brokered for a lifetime.

At the Downtown Y, in my first week in Orlando, I visited with some of our faithful racquetball and handball players. They were happy to give me a history lesson on the evolution of the game at their Y. The evidence of the history of friendships developed outside of the Y is well-documented in the hallway adjacent to the courts. Pictures of friends, present and past, are evidence of how the Y is so much more than a gym.

This month, I celebrate the Real Talk and the real friendships that happen in our Ys, and I thank you all for trusting us to be that place where you chose to come together. Keep up the Real Talk.

Until next time…

Kevin Bolding, President & CEO
YMCA of Central Florida

The Y. For a better us.®