Here is an actual interview from some years ago on a Chattanooga radio station, reproduced as close to verbatim as The Planet can manage from memory. It was a call-in show that offered callers the opportunity to consult a local psychic. A young female caller, probably late teens, had asked for advice.
Psychic: First, tell me a little about yourself. What have you been doing this morning?
Psychic: What are you doing this afternoon?
Psychic: What do you have planned for tomorrow?
Psychic: What about the weekend?
Psychic: Well, what do you enjoy doing?
Psychic: Do you have a job?
Psychic: Do you go to school?
Psychic: Would you like to get a job or go to school?
Psychic: I think you need to set some goals ...
This was an extreme case, but later experience has shown there are plenty of young people drifting almost as aimlessly.
Some kids seem born knowing what they're supposed to do in life--the camera bug, the math nerd, the little science boy or the horse-crazy girl who's wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 5. Then there are those like our caller, who have no clue.
How fortunate for those latter that right here in Dade County, Georgia, there's somebody to help.
"About four years ago, I began to have a vision for our young people," said Will Garrett (left). "This was something that was put on my heart."
Garrett, 61, came to Trenton in 2010 to open a Guthrie's Chicken restaurant here. He now owns and operates four of the fast-food chicken franchises all over the Chattanooga area and has become one of Dade County's preeminent entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, he taught business courses at Chattanooga State and that's where he began noticing this problem of directionless youth--there and at home in Dade, too.
Some, said Garrett, are at-risk types, young adults with drug-addict parents who haven't been positioned to give them much guidance in life. But plenty more are from solid middle-class families who have offered them all the support in the world, and they are just as lost at sea.
"I would say half of my students at Chatt State were like that," said Garrett. "They came from great homes, they drove nice cars, had education paid for by their parents and their parents had great jobs and great educations--but they were floundering. They just were struggling with life."
Garrett says all these kids are bursting with potential but simply have no idea how to go about realizing it. They need, in a quaint phrase, to "find themselves"--and now Garrett, with a little help from his friends, has come up with a suggestion as to where they can start looking: The first "Inspire Weekend" will be Nov. 18-20, beginning on a Friday at 8 a.m. sharp and ending on the ensuing Sunday at 5 p.m. The plan is that there will be another such weekend in the spring and four to six per year eventually.
Inspire weekends, which will take place at Camp Lookout on Highway 157, will be part support group, part seminar, part networking opportunity. Forty young people ages 17-25, equally divided between the sexes, will gather for games, food and lectures on everything from happiness to work to the soul. "[But] it's not a churchy event," said Garrett. "There will be music and games and challenging people to look up and believe that they have a great future in life ahead of them."
Garrett, who was a Methodist minister before his midlife metamorphosis to entrepreneur, stresses that Inspire weekends are not designed as religious retreats. "We're not going to tell people what to do, not about jobs, religion, education," he said. "We just want to talk with them, give them inspiring stories and let them find their way."
Who's "we"? Garrett did not organize Inspire on his own. Active in other civic organizations around town, he had discussed with cohorts there his vision of helping young people for several years when finally one of them challenged him to shut up and do it! Piqued, Garrett invited 12 people to a meeting. All 12 showed up and bingo, the Leadership Table was born.
The Leadership Table, the nonprofit organization formed to plan and implement these Inspire weekends, has been meeting about a year now, Fridays from 8-9:30 a.m. in the Guthrie's party room. "My guess is we've had 25 meetings," said Garret. "The group now has gotten so large that we'll probably be moving out soon."
Business and church leaders have joined up, said Garrett, and it was no tiime at all before local educators jumped aboard, including school principals and administrators up to and including the superintendent. "They have come and said, we like what you're doing and we feel like it has great value to help our young folks," said Garrett.
Garrett says with so many members, planning Inspire has been a big, messy process, with multiple suggestions on everything from what to name seminar tables after--"Mountains!" "No, presidents!"--to what the project basically is: The members finally decided to define Inspire: "A space to discover an inspired vision for life" and designed a brochure with that theme. "You have no idea how many meetings it took us to pull this thing together," said Garrett.
But he said it's also been a cordial and enjoyable process, verified when The Planet popped in on a meeting earlier this week and found members reading their tasks for the week in an atmosphere of cheerful urgency--with Nov. 18 precisely eight weeks away, Zero Hour is fast approaching.
The Leadership Table, a little diminished because it met this week at the same time as the Board of Education (educators are heavily represented here) was still too rangy to fit into The Planet's frame.
But if you want to attend the November Inspire Weekend, or know a young person who would like to, there's still plenty of time to sign up. Garrett and crew have 10 to 15 names right now but they'd like 60, 40 for November and the rest to begin a waiting list for the spring session.
"Our objective is that 75 percent of the young people that are a part of this come from Dade County or the Sand Mountain-Lookout Mountain area, because we really want to focus in on this area," said Garrett. "Then 25 percent of the young people that go on this we will invite from other areas to sort of have some cross-pollination."
Ultimately the idea is for Inspire "grads" to become advisers for new attendees and for the followup sessions Garrett says will happen every month to continue helping young people "live into their own story."
"Eventually there will enough of these happening that there will be alumni coming back for a monthly reunion," he said. "Our whole thing is to encourage them up every month when they come back-- keep going, you can do this. And ask the group, hey, guys, what do you think would help Jane or John here?"
The attendance fee for an Inspire weekend is $150 but sponsors have already been lined up to pay $75 of that and Garret has been fundraising to cover more, so cost should not be an object for anyone. "We're asking the young person to do $25 just so they've got some sweat equity in it," said Garrett.
Interested? You can find out more, or download an application, at inspireweekend.com; or call (706) 657-6821 for more information.
And if you're interested in sitting on the Leadership Table, it could probably use your help, too. Garrett say it's a growing organization that may end up expanding its functions. "Eventually, we're thinking the Leadership Table may inspire a financial-help kind of piece that would help young people figure out finances," he said. "Or maybe if they've got a business they want to go into."
Again, until further notice the Leadership Table sits at 8 a.m. Fridays at Guthrie's.