BE the Village!

“God, you see your children growing up in an
unsteady and confusing world: Show them that your ways
give more life than the ways of the world, and that following
you is better than chasing after selfish goals. Help them to
take failure, not as a measure of their worth, but as a chance
for a new start. Give them strength to hold their faith in you,
and to keep alive their joy in your creation; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.” – A Prayer for Young Persons, Book of Common Prayer

These are challenging times for young people. In fact, I would say there is unquestionably a real crisis with young people in the world. Many live in deplorable circumstances of poverty, lacking necessities even for basic survival. There are thousands who are fleeing their homes due to brutal dictatorial and or gang violence. Others are experiencing great oppression based on their religion, race, ethnicity or country of origin. And regardless of their neighborhood many live with a constant anxiety that going to a school, mall or movie theater will quickly erupt in gun violence.

The consequences on the mind, body and soul of a young person living this reality are immense. Fear, anxiety, depression and isolation are constant companions of a significant percentage of our young people. In response, many turn to exceedingly unhealthy behavior, including harming themselves and or harming others.

The vast majority of those who have engaged in mass shootings are younger people. The vast majority of gangs and specifically those who commit violent acts are young. Racism, homophobia and violence against women are prevalent in the youth culture. And “basic bullying” behavior is common place in most gatherings of young people.

After reading the above three paragraphs my bet is you have some level of feeling overwhelmed. That actually is both an understandable and appropriate response. However, that response must only be our initial response. Our young people need the adults in the world now more than ever – all adults. The only way for our young people to begin to experience a healthier existence is if every adult commits to take on some way of helping and supporting one or a group of young people.

There are no shortage of options. Schools, churches, Big Brothers and Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, foster care, YMCA, affinity groups such as sports, music, arts and other youth related non profits all need more adults. Or maybe it’s just the kid next door, down the street or a friend of your child that needs a loving, nurturing, healthy adult in their life.

The level of challenges our young people are experiencing is a real crisis, but it is not insurmountable in its healing transformation if every adult commits to take responsibility for the care, nurture and support of young people.

To remember your own young years
And look with favor upon the lost
And the least and the lonely
To put the mantle of your protection
Around the bodies of
The young and defenseless – Maya Angelou Continue

1 thought on “BE the Village!”

  1. Lewis C Weaver

    Certainly we are called to be a part of the village in supporting the youth. It becomes important in that effort to know that which we bring. The largest longitudinal study on youth recidivism (the tendency to repeat a crime) showed that the mentorship program intervention actually increased the tendency towards return to criminal activity. (The reasons for this finding are unknown but there is no shortage of narratives to explain why)

    The youth model the behavior of authoritative figures/role models. What are we modeling when we volunteer? Are we modeling the same social media involvement? Are we modeling anxiety?

    Are we looking at a long term relationship program which we are unwilling to continue–thereby being just another of a series of people to abandon a troubled youth?

    In regards to challenges, a historical prospective. We tend to view that challenges that we/the youth are facing as unprecedented. If we look at 350 AD as a comparison. Justin the Apostate has become Caesar of Rome. The official religion has been declared to be paganism. The plague of Justinian is starting and will kill 25% of the population (compared to a current fatality rate of 19/100,000 with COVID-19). Quarantine to travel includes a two week encampment outside of a city (to visit or return, one had to be in quarantine for 14 days). This would last 350 years. (I am not trying to diminish the suffering or trials experienced by individuals during the current pandemic–those are events are real and often tragic). The challenges of an unsteady and confusion world have always been with us and our youth. The challenges will always be with humanity for all time on Earth. The challenges will just differ over time.

    Are we willing to meet the youth where they are, rather than where we believe that they should be? My recent volunteering experience was largely unproductive. After years of counselling from a spiritual and psychological perspective in my practice as a physician, I attempted to be a resource for a program. When my bias and the prevailing bias of the program were in conflict (contribution of internal belief system versus the contribution of external spiritual attack), I found myself as ineffective and possibly detrimental.

    Yes, the world and especially the youth need us to be the vessels of God’s love. But in our attempts, we need to be clear to ourselves what we are willing to bring. We need to leave as much of our own baggage at home; the youth have plenty of baggage and don’t need any more. We need to be sure that we are entering into the right environment, with the right motivation, doing the right things (as much as we can identify right in the perspective of God).

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