Dear Friends and Readers,
We, as youth workers or parents or role models in the community, are teaching and molding and raising our community’s children. We are teaching them how to be role models themselves. We are teaching them how to be a functioning member of society and a person who changes the world for good. But before we teach it, we have to live it.
Warning: Miss Brenda is getting her “gusto” on.
For us to mold children into the type of people who change the world for good, we must be the type of people who change the world for good. For us to instill empathy, we must feel empathy. For us encourage generosity, we must practice generosity.
If we expect that 10 year old to resolve conflict in a mature and non-violent way, we must do that in our own lives, and in our country, and in the world. As a country and a state and a neighborhood, if we want kids who work together and express love and seek knowledge and think before they act and support their peers, then we, as a country or state or neighborhood must do the same.
BECOME AWARE OF INJUSTICE
In order to create a more just world, we must become aware of how our world is unjust. In order to create a solution, we must identify and explore the problem. Drive on city streets- not the highway. Drive and look. Visit a homeless shelter and learn people’s names. Learn people’s stories. Share your wealth. Share your love.
Read books. Lots and lots of books. There are a hundred and one books and stories that will never be enough to communicate the horror of this that have happened and are happening to the children of our world. But if we want to change the world for good, and if we want to raise kids to change the world, then we need to first know, and know deeply, what injustices exist. And these stories can show us glimpses. Stories like A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah. Stories like Enrique’s Journey, by Sonia Nazario. Stories like Turning Stones, by Marc Parent and Lakota Woman, by Mary Crow Dog.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you learn these stories and let them change your life. I also can’t recommend strongly enough that you prepare yourself for the suffering you will encounter when reading these books and watching similar movies and getting to know people who have been there. There are images from these stories that will haunt me until my dying day.
BECAUSE KIDS SUFFER FROM INJUSTICE
I can’t read certain books anymore. I can’t watch certain movies or have unemotional conversations and debates about certain political an social issues. Not because of the books or movies or issues themselves, but because of the kids I know who have been there.
If you work with kids long enough, and do your job, you will have to call CPS. There is no getting around it. If you work with kids who aren’t white, you will encounter racism. If you work with kids who aren’t upper or middle class, you will encounter poverty and classism. If you work with kids who are from another country, especially a non-western country, you will encounter xenophobia and the effects of militarism and neocolonialism.
I looked into the face of a girl who had been molested by multiple adults, whose mom was dating a gang leader, whose home had been set on fire because of a drug debt that hadn’t been paid on time. I looked into the face of a boy who had watched his sister be raped and was chased from his home country, only to be rejected by a foster family in the US years later. I watch kids leave the Club and know what homes some of them are going back to.
Kids are effected by injustice… even white, suburban, English-speaking, middle class American kids. We need to know about what is going on because it impacts them. Because sooner or later, if you work with kids, especially if you work with an at-risk population of kids, it will impact you and your work. Know what your are working with. Know the issues and injustices that might arise. Because in knowing these things, you know your kids.
BECAUSE KIDS FIGHT INJUSTICE
If each of us chose to learn about our world and chose to care, there is no way we could possibly go on as we did before. There is no way we could not be generous and kind and peaceful. There is no way we could not fight for justice. And in watching us do so, our youth would follow along.
I am sick of hearing about highschoolers and middle schoolers who rebel against authority figures to stand up for what is right. Kudos to them and I hope that I am helping to raise children that will speak up for the truth, but shouldn’t we be leading them in that? Shouldn’t we pave the way for our youth to make a difference? Fighting injustice is hard enough. Why is it that youth so often have to fight their parents and their schools at the same time?
When I was in high school, a few kids tried to sell bracelets to raise money to find a cure for cancer. The same type of cancer that one of our teachers was just diagnosed with… but they were told that they couldn’t do so in school. Really? REALLY?
The same teacher who had cancer was perhaps one of the best teachers I ever had. She allowed our class to put off learning about government to instead run a clothing drive for hurricane victims. We later took a break to make a “get well soon” video for a classmate who had almost died in a car accident. I know as much about government as I would have if we had focused on it every class period. But I learned way more about citizenship than I would have from a text book.
The government doesn’t work without the participation of the people. It can’t solve the problems of everyone in our country in an effective way. But a country full of good neighbors? A world full of people who are aware and generous and peaceful and just and kind? Those individuals could do what the government never could.
As a Christian, I believe that someday God will make the world new and will make the world a place where there is no more tears or sorrow or pain. A place where everyone is loving and there is perfect unity. But who is to say that we can’t start showing one another glimpses of that paradise now? Who is to say we can’t teach our kids to act in a way that brings about some of that goodness as well? In a way that brings hope for that promise of a better future?
In the big picture, yes, entropy is real and things will probably get worse before they get better. No one person or even group of people can fix the world.
But the Kingdom of God…
The Kingdom isn’t just someday.
It is right here and it is right now.
It is whenever and where ever we allow
the goodness and love of Jesus to flow through our actions.
And in the even bigger picture,
those moments where we chose to live hopefully,
and where we chose to live grace and justice and peace and mercy,
and where we chose to live in a way that shows the world the Kingdom of God and all His glory?
Those moments have an eternal impact.
An impact that is immeasurable by anyone but God himself.
And that is something worth living out daily and teaching our children.
But it starts with us. It starts with you and with me. It starts here and it starts now.