Warning: this is NOT my usual “sunny” look at life.
Seeing the lovely, smiling face of an 18 year old girl in the obituary column usually brings sadness because illness or disease has robbed someone of a lifetime of hopes and dreams. Today it filled me with anger. I’m not angry with the young man who took her life, and then his own. I’m angry at the society I live in for glorifying violence. I’m worried that our values and priorities are so skewed that we cannot recognize that our children are in trouble. Do you know where your children are at this moment? Do you know what’s on their mind and in their heart?
Yes, at 58 I guess I’m in the geezer category. I know “things are different these days.” They always are. Times change, life gets more complicated, but basic values and inherent goodness should last. We give our kids every new electronic gadget to keep them occupied, give them space, give them love in our own inept way… but do we give them time?
So your kid is a top student, won scholarships, is a track star… is that what you wanted from them? Are all the things they accomplished the things THEY really wanted? If your 4.0 student just wanted to be an auto mechanic would you think less of them? I guess the point I’m trying to make is, do YOU know what’s in your child’s heart? Do you know their hopes and dreams? I mean REALLY know. If one of their dreams shattered and their angst was too much to bear, would you know? Could they throw down the “cool, independent” shell and come to you for comfort…and a hug…or a good cry?
My prayers are with both families, and their community. It may seem that all the bad news we hear about teens these days is random, just chance. When we see news about young people who are binge drinking, having casual sex, committing crimes or disrespecting life and property, we think it’s always someone else’s problem. Not MY kids. Not anyone I know. Guess what? I’ll bet all the parents of all those kids in the police reports said the same thing. Not my kid.
I choose to believe there are far more good and decent young people out there than the rotten apples. I am proud of all the wonderful young men and women who are a part of my community and the larger world. I want to believe they will make the right decisions in their lives, or learn from the wrong ones, just as we did, and our parents and grandparents before us. They’re carrying a troubled world on their shoulders but they will survive and make it better. At least, most will survive.
Maybe we can’t stop disease, or accidents, or wars, or natural disasters. Maybe we are powerless to intervene in the natural order of the universe. My own brother died by someone else’s hand, just shy of his 18th birthday. It was something we could not have prevented but the feeling of helplessness never goes away. No matter how many ways we can lose a child, we should never…ever…lose a child because there was not one person they could talk to, to reach out to. Our culture of violence and indifference to death has blurred the lines between fantasy and reality. It is up to us to define those lines, hard and fast, and keep our kids on the right side. We need to be able to pull them back when they get too close to losing their way. How? I don’t have any answers. I only know that I wish that troubled young man would have cried his eyes out to someone first. I wish the young lady could have seen the warning signs in so explosive a relationship. I only know that each of us is responsible for ALL the children of this world, and if it takes a village to raise a child, our village may be in trouble.
Bottom line? We are responsible for the state of the world we live in. All of us. Collectively. We may not be able to save every young person, but we ought to go down trying. Those “Have you hugged your kid today?” bumperstickers may be the most important piece of literature you read today. Hug them, love them, yell at them… just let them know that there is always something, or someone, worth hanging on for. Don’t be embarrassed to say “I love you unconditionally and am always here for you.” Start listening to your kids, their kids, everybody’s kids. We can’t save them all but we have to say we tried.