When I see kids, I do pray. Do they have good role models in the household? Does the boy have a man in his life who treats him with firm respect, showing the little male what it is to be a man? Does the girl have a man in her life who treats her like the precious jewel she is, so she can understand what true love is when she reaches her teen years? Is there a woman in the family that is a powerful nurturing presence, with unconditional love, that demands the best of children? Has the family placed the teaching and loving of these children above any other goals or distractions? Do the adults in these kids' lives show ways of resolving conflict that do not involve violence or manipulative power plays that end up hurting people? Is there teaching of care for others and for society--the sort of teaching that demonstrates that the "me-first" ism so common today is an empty broken philosophy, destined to give immediate pleasure but empty the soul? Is there ambition in the family, to make themselves better then they are now? A work ethic and sense of personal responsibility? A denial of the current pleasure for future gain?
I think of these things because the failure of families has given rise to behavior and trends that are not positive. Now I know that each generation thinks the younger generation behind it is going to Hell in a hand basket, but the world has had significant societal change over the past 50 years. Much of it has been for the better, some of it has been for the worse. Divorce and family breakup to the extent that modern society has seen it over the past half decade is a new thing, and I think we have seen the effects on the current crop of young adults--Gen X and and younger. Families are doing less of the good teaching, and leaving more of it to society, to schools, employers, and elders in the community. We see people unable to resolve conflict without resorting to violence. We see rude and uncivil behavior on the increase. We see more of an entitlement mentality, wanting "what's mine" and wanting it now.
I sometimes think that dysfunctional communities are in denial about this aspect of their troubles. I would like to see leaders in the Kansas City East Side--our city's area with the most violent crime--openly and publicly confront the people about the high out-of-wedlock birth rate and the high number of unsupported single moms in their community. I would like to hear conversation about the high number of grandparents raising kids, because drugs have snared the moms and dads. I would like confronted the generational poverty and welfare mentality that has taken over some families.
It's hard, because much of this is stuff that cannot be fixed by anyone but the parties involved. There are some things the community-at-large can do and a few things individuals can do. As best you can, model the good. Resolve conflict without violence. Be considerate of others and call the inconsiderate to account (do not expect thanks for this, BTW; in fact expect exponentially increased rudeness). Do things out side of the government programs that help people see an alternative way--I know of churches that sponsor tutoring, mentoring and camping programs that expose kids to good values and opportunities--ways of thinking that are less selfish and entitled, more oriented to achievement and positive change.
Success and happiness is not the big house and two cars, although financial uplift often comes when positive values are followed. It means being able to look around and be fulfilled, to know you have given your best, and to know some small corner of the world is a little better for your passing through. I worry that, in chasing after what fulfills "me" right at this moment, that we have deprived and are depriving our kids of the teaching and knowing of true happiness.