The ten-year-old star of Joy Berry’s recreation program was a puzzle to her and a problem to his parents. Guy had failed two grades in school and was threatened with expulsion when his exasperated mother called on Joy for help. She visited Guy at his home and was treated to a backyard spectacle. A three-storied treehouse had been expertly constructed high in the boughs of several avocado trees. The structure had running water, electricity, a small refrigerator, a rope-and-pulley elevator, a thatched roof, and windows with glass in them. Joy was amazed to learn that the treehouse was a product of Guy’s own imagination and ingenuity.
This young entrepreneur had convinced the neighborhood children to earn their membership in the tree-house club by selling avocados from the backyard trees. Guy had kept careful accounting and organized on-going fund-raisers, which benefited the tree-house club and added to its structure.
Overwhelmed by the size and scope of Guy’s backyard project, Joy asked him, “What do you think you do well?”
Crestfallen, Guy answered, “Nothing. I’m not good at sports, I can’t draw or sing, and you know how I’m doing in school.” Guy paused for a moment then looked directly into Joy’s eyes. “Is that why you came to see me? He asked. “Are you disappointed in me too?”
Joy was devastated by Guy’s response. Here was a boy who viewed himself as a failure in spite of his obvious accomplishments. Joy vowed then and there to modify her conventional perceptions about children as well as her traditional approach to working with them.
Together, Joy and Guy organized and taught the first classes offered in a supplementary program that Joy continued to expand and direct. The unique classes were designed to teach children the Living Skills they need to become responsible.
Eleven years later, Joy began converting the classroom materials she created into a comprehensive collection of self-help materials for kids. It took an additional twelve years for her to complete this task.