Saturday, August 30, 2008

“A Better Life?”

“We want a better life for our children.” I wonder how many times this phrase has been spoken by the various political candidates as the presidential race goes into hyper-speed. Each time, I also wonder what that means. I know I have said the same thing—I too want a better life for my children. Or at least I say I do. But what is it that I want to be better?

If it means a safer, more physically comfortable one, one without major life challenges, or without experiences or want or hunger or thirst or poverty or risk-taking or failure, we are setting ourselves and our children up for disaster. It is those very challenges that develop character and create better people.

You may have heard about the nine-year-old New Haven, Connecticut baseball player, Jericho Scott, who was recently told he had to leave his league team because he pitched too well. Rationale from the parents on the teams that inevitably lost when they played Scott’s team went something like this, “He’s too good. Our children get discouraged when they have to play against someone that good.” By the way, it was couched in terms of safety—he might hit one of the children with his 40 mph fastball. Note: he has yet to hit a child with a wild pitch. But, of course he might.

Oh my, how sad. So what happens when these children face other obstacles in life where they are outmatched? Do mommy and daddy insist that those other obstacles just disappear so their little one never has to be discouraged? Probably—all in the name of giving their children a better life. Such a scenario guarantees weak, unchallenged, unmotivated children who do not know how to keep trying, or how to get up again after failure and learn something from it.

Many bad things might happen, just as this talented youngster might someday throw a wild pitch and end up bruising the batter. Do we create a better life for our children by protecting them from the things that might happen or do we create a better life for them by equipping them with wisdom and education and experiences that will give them the resources to face life’s complications? Of course, this is not always an “either/or” situation. There are things we need to protect them from in order to be good parents and grandparents and caregivers. I would suggest, however, that to protect them from failure, from feeling bad, from losing to someone better or more skilled, from being hungry or thirsty on occasion, from wanting something and not getting it, from knowing that all living things must die for the world to go on, will end up with a group of young people with almost no internal equipment to face their lives.

No matter how much we wish to deny it, we live in a world that seems full of random events. Hurricanes will form during hurricane season—and some of the will land in populated areas. Tornadoes, floods, volcanic eruptions, even meteor strikes, cannot be controlled or avoided. They happen. If nothing else, wild weather always reminds us that our hope of controlling the world—or making a perfect life for our children—is simply an illusion. Instructions found in the Bible about rearing our children insist that the best gift we give our children is the gift of wisdom. In this way, the ‘better world” is one in which they use that wisdom to face their hurricanes—or better pitchers—and become stronger and more capable in the process.

1 comment:

Angie said...

Ok I just had to comment on this post and say: Way to Go Christy!
Too many people think that better means fixing every problem or having no difficulties or disappointments.
Because of where I teach,Methodist Home, I'm faced with the difficult task of teaching young people that failures are not failures but instead character builders. Every day I face students who have what I like to call the " I can't do it" attitude. Which means that no matter what they are asked to do, they respond with " I can't do it " and then they expect me to fix it and make it better. This usually means in their minds not even trying to do what I've asked because they are afraid to fail or have others see them fail because they've usually experienced only failure in their past.

However, this year I've come up with a new way of seeing things.
As a class, we are going to approach every day with these words instead of "I can't do it" the student can say. I am not very good at (whatever we are doing) but I am going to try it and I'm going do my very best.

They of course will be rewarded with grades that reflect their willingness to participate and then will be given many opportunities to be successful no matter what it is that we are doing.

Thanks again for reminding all of us that teaching is about preparing those we teach to face whatever comes at them and emerge from it a better person .