The holiday season just passed and I am reminded of all the wonderful presents we give to our young people. I think about the sacrifices people make all year-long just to put a smile on the faces of their children during the month of December. I have even heard people say that their children got everything they possibly wanted.
Recently, I walked in on a birthday party of a child who was maybe four or five years old and could not believe how extravagant it was. Don’t get me wrong; I have no issue with such acts of kindness towards young people. I think the celebration of young folk has its place. But I can’t help but to think about those young people who are not as “fortunate” to receive such lavishing gifts or to get the celebration that they too deserve.
What about that child who has three or four other siblings and their single mother just can’t afford to make the holiday season as enjoyable as others? Does that mean the child who was “fortunate” to have a more gifts should feel bad? Does that mean the child who was “less fortunate” should envy? Do we place too much value in things seen and not enough in those which are NOT? These are just thoughts of “anolcountryboy” – I am certainly not sure of the answer to any of those questions.
What are we really teaching young folk to value?
Regardless of whether they were on the “fortunate” end of the stick and received their heart’s desire or if they were on the “unfortunate” end; what lesson are we teaching by placing so much emphasis on the material things in life? I am sure there are many people who believe that if you work hard for something and you have the means to pay for it then you should have the right to indulge in it. Again, I do not disagree with that notion. I am all for having the “right” to do anything. The beauty and the ugly truth about America is that we have the “right” to do anything (that’s legal).
The question on the table is not whether we have the “right” to give our children their heart’s desire… but “Should We”? I will leave every person unto him or herself to work that out. Again, the question I am searching the answer for is “What is/are the lessons we’re teaching when we invest in the seen more so than the unseen?” It is clear to me that when we give young folk their heart’s desire, there is a message that is being sent. I cannot help but to ponder about the values we teach by what we do to and for our children.
We miss the boat of rearing young people by insisting that they do as we say and not as we do. The common thought is that young people learn best by watching your actions rather than listening to your words. Of the two, actions are more powerful than words. I would contend that what a person teaches is the most powerful means of instilling value in a young person.
Teaching is when what we say and what we do are in alignment.
When we say we value education and there are 25 science books, 30 math books, 50 novels all floating around the house in circulation then WE are Teaching the value of education. When we say we love our kids and we give our children everything they want but as soon as they make a mistake or do something we don’t like, our actions may suggest otherwise; what are we really teaching them to value?
We have to be very careful about the messages that are being sent to young people. I do not know any person who does not want the best for their children. I have yet to meet the person who does not desire for their child to be happy. It behooves me to think that there are some folks out there who wouldn’t do anything for the young people they love. Thus, the issue is not whether parents, teachers, or any adult love their children or not. The issue is what and how we teach young people to value.
How do we teach young people “to value”?
The standard of character a Woman or Man has with their words Must be the same standard of character they have with their actions. Whenever what is said matches what is done, then teaching has taken place. Teaching young people to value anything is the ability to marry one’s speech and one’s actions in a cohesive unit that leaves the spirit no room but to receive the lesson. The objective in teaching young people “how to value” is to teach to the spirit first. It does not matter what is being taught; if and when it reverberates in a person’s spirit they won’t ever forget it.
It is relatively easy to value something. Usually there is very little work put into placing value. When I think about how I learned ideals and what was applicable to my life, there is not a blueprint for how that learning took place. I can readily recount the lessons I learned as a child that mean the most to me as an adult. “Get up and go to work.” “Provide for your family.” “Get your heart right with God.” “Give twice as much as you receive.” Those were the phrases my dad would say to me all the time. I am convinced that the reason I can recall them and live by them today is because I witnessed him go to work everyday. I saw and felt the effects of him providing for his family. I still have the images of him sitting in the deacon pew every 2nd Sunday. My most vivid memories are of him sharing his time, money, and wisdom with me, my brothers and my friends. He said many things to me that maybe did not stick with me as much, mainly because he was trying the get me to see beyond the obvious. The lessons that I learned were the ones that he spoke and lived as one. The lessons I discovered were the ones that he either spoke or lived but rarely did both so acutely.
Ahh, there’s the difference in the transformation of our teaching young people how to value a thing versus allowing them to discover how to value something. The risk with discovery of values is that they oftentimes the time it takes to discover “values” costs us way too much. The universe has all the time you want to discover and rediscover your spirit. What there is not time for is trying to figure what you value along the way. Our character make up gotta be in a place where we send young folk on their journey with the tools they need to complete. The journey being self discovery; The tools being how we learn to value.
So are we really teaching our future leaders or are we teaching the leaderless? As long as we teach contradictions we will continue to produce followers and not leaders.
Just a few thoughts…