June 2006 Linn County Leader Column – “A Generation At Risk”

A little over a year ago, I offered to contribute my musings and recollections for a monthly column in the Linn County Leader; since then I’ve been blessed to be able to share my life with you, and have appreciated all of the good, bad, and indifferent comments. I’ve smiled at some of the frank, biased opinions that were posted on my online blog, and even laughed at how ignorant all of us can be sometimes in the way we view racial issues, spiritual matters, and everyday life.

It’s been a challenge to come up with a fresh subject each and every month; there are many topics I would like to discuss but due to complications have decided not to pursue them. And, to be honest, that is probably the lesser of two evils; for there are certain things that are better left unsaid. Even in the great Show-Me state of Missouri, we oftentimes do not want to hear (or be shown) about our lack of knowledge concerning the world around us.

For this month, however, I’m taking myself “out of the frying pan and into the fire” and will be tackling a very difficult issue that’s been on my mind and heart lately…and that is the state of our local youth in the Green Hills area.

To be sure, there will be plenty of comments, many negative, over this column; yet, it needs to be said and brought out into the open, in hopes that this might lead to some discussions, and possible solutions.

Some general observations about our kids:

  • Kids don’t respect their elders or parents today. Jeannie and I sometimes battle this with our own children; it seems that what our parents taught us in being courteous and polite is now a dying art. “Sir” and “Ma’am” are not boot-camp words, contrary to popular belief; they are merely acknowledging that we, as adults, deserve to be treated with respect. We were both taught those things as kids growing up, and now we try to instill that in our children; believe it or not, for the most part, it really works.
  • Kids have forgotten what the outside world is all about. We laugh sometimes when we tell our kids that during the summer, we stayed outside ALL day and just played, usually until around dusk. Did any of us really care if it was over 90 degrees in the shade? There were bike rides to go on, sandlot ball to play, fish to catch, camping excursions to go on…if we didn’t have anything to do, we made up something. Imagination was a necessity. Nowadays, kids are spoiled with air conditioning everywhere they go; video games and DVDs act as babysitters for this creativity-deprived generation. Kids whine and complain when they have to go outside, even if it is for 10 minutes or more. “It’s just too hot,” they tell us with a whimper.
  • Kids today are dealing with a more complicated world. Besides the video/DVD childcare appliance mentioned above, in today’s society children have to deal with laptop computers, instant messaging software and cell phones, to mention just a few more things. Kids are increasingly becoming “wired” or plugged into more and more electronic gadgets and gizmos; when they don’t have access to them, they almost go into “withdrawal” and can’t wait to jack themselves back in so they can text message themselves silly. Being spoiled? Being pacified? Probably a bit of both.
  • Kids today are bigger “thrill seekers.” Sure, we had our fun racing down gravel roads and being idiots; jumping off homemade ramps on our bikes and seeing how far we could fly before we wiped out; but more often than not we knew when to stop. Nowadays, bigger and bigger boosts of adrenaline are needed to stoke our kids up. Bigger and badder amusement park rides; higher bungee jumps; even extreme sporting events are the rage, having made it into our Olympic Games. Who knows how long it will be before they’re school-sanctioned sports?

These past few weeks, as Jeannie and I have driven down the streets in Marceline and Brookfield, what we have seen is a generation of kids who are more learned, jaded, and bored with society and what the world can offer them, than at any other time in our nation’s history. 

We’ve seen kids who nearly knock down older people with their bikes and then zoom past without even offering an apology. We have seen kids with their attention spans based upon what they see on television, in the movies, and on video games; selfishness and violence permeates every facet of these mediums, and undoubtedly, some of these traits are finding their way into the minds and hearts of our youth.

And, whether or not we want to admit it, the situation is only getting worse with each passing day. It is taking more and more to “satisfy” our kids so that they won’t be disenchanted with life, or school, or each other. It’s time to admit that we need to get back to the basics of life like it was 30 or more years ago…God first, our families next, and then ourselves. It’s time to admit that we need to shed our homes and our minds of all this excessive garbage and stuff and take a stand and tell our kids that all of the “creature comforts” that we have supplied them with are going “bye-bye.” It’s also time to get them out of bed on Sunday morning and bring them to church, so that they can hear God’s Word and be brought up in the care and admonition of the Lord, so that later on in life when they have a family, they’ll remember the priorities in life and do the right thing for their kids, too.

All of this is possible…but we first have to take care of our children. And we have to sit them down and apologize to them for giving them too much “stuff” instead of giving them God. Sure, there are exceptions to our observations…I know of several youth who are very kind and courteous and giving…but they are few and far between.

Folks, what I’m suggesting is not an impossible task. Difficult, yes. But it can be done.

So let’s get on with it.
Richard can be reached via e-mail at sliceofhome@sbcglobal.net or leave a comment on his online blog at https://sliceofhome.wordpress.com. His column appears monthly in the Leader.

Key words: Linn County Leader, Slice of Home column, today's kids, respect, courtesy, Show-Me State, a generation at risk, thrill seekers, lost generation, creature comforts, God, church.  

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