On our morning walk today we passed a group of teenagers waiting for the school bus. They were a diverse group clad in colors ranging from all black to bright. Their hairstyles varied from normal to audacious. Almost all of them had earbuds in their ears and phones in their hands. But what most caught my attention were the somber, if not completely depressed, expressions on their faces. My little people found them intimidating and clung close to me as we walked by. I told them, “It’s ok. They are only teenagers and they are probably nervous about you too.” But that gloomy group of young people left an impression on me today. I pondered the difference between them and my toddlers: eyes on the ground versus eyes all around; expressionless versus animated and sparkling; silent versus giggling and wondering aloud. What happened to them?
Perhaps it is not so much what happened to them but what happened all around them. Children long for direction; they find security in guidance and boundaries; they yearn for stability and consistency. Is that what they are finding in our society? Think about it: the foundation of our American society is barely recognizable as something upon which a life can be built. It has eroded to the point where anyone attempting to live according to any standard must fight to stand upright. The courts have declared marriage a free for all; it’s open season on babies from 4 weeks gestation to 40; pornography is rampant; many drugs are legal; prostitution is even legal in some cities and is being considered for full legalization; medical kidnap is becoming more of a common occurrence; gender can be chosen and changed. School shootings pierce our news headlines all too often, and thousands of children are lured into the sex trade beneath our noses every year. Is it any wonder that our teenagers are either staring at the ground or looking over their shoulder?
In the midst of this tragic chaos there are the constant calls for change: policy changes, government changes, security changes, attitude changes. Yet I wonder who is willing to step up and make the sacrifice of changing themselves in a few basic ways rather than demanding others to change. If I could write an open letter to my fellow American citizens, I would ask them to consider making changes in these three areas:
- Home ~ How often are you at home with your children for the sake of being at home with your children? Today’s kids spend so much time away from home. They are at daycare, before care, after care and extracurricular activities all throughout the week. This leaves them little time to develop a secure home base where they can find security and rest while creating a space they can call their own. This may then prompt them to escape into their own virtual world and render them nearly unreachable to human contact.
- Heart~Do you view your children’s hearts as a treasure worth guarding? It’s often easier to turn your children’s attention to a screen or another person when you want to do your own thing, but no moment spent with your kids is a wasted one. Consider investing more in your kids and less in yourself each day. Kids need to know that you value them and long to know them. Remember, if you’re not spending time with your kids someone else is.
- Hope~Don’t give up. Children can be exasperating and exhausting. You may feel like everything and everyone are falling apart everywhere, but it’s worth the effort to keep going. Christ doesn’t give up on us when we mess up, even in the worst ways, so let’s not give up on our families. I have also found that the most desperate times are often the best times to prove unconditional love to our children.
I am of the opinion that in this upside-down and backwards world the best way to set things straight is to return to the basics. Family starts in the home. Change begins in the heart. Hope is found in Jesus.