A sign of hope

Pam-Anara
Our first granddaughter has arrived. She is our 4th grandchild–but the first girl. As I held her, I thought…every child is a sign of hope–regardless of how it was conceived or the circumstances into which it is born. Unfortunately for many, those circumstances are awful. But…

When you look into the face of a child looking around at this world for the first time, there’s a sense of wonder and awe–and for a few minutes, we also have the chance to see the world differently.

A baby challenges us to not be satisfied with the status quo but to believe that things can–and must–be different so that all who come into this world can have the same opportunities for love, shelter, warmth, food…

I am grateful that Anara has those opportunities…and pray that her name (which means “Princess of Peace”) is truly indicative of her future and the future for all children. But I must also do more than simply pray…because we have been so blessed, we have a responsibility to do what we can to make that world of peace possible.

Another tragedy…

The verdict is in…not guilty. There are strong reactions to the verdict on all sides of the issue…but one thing is clear: this is yet another tragedy that has forever changed the lives of two families.

Of course the most obvious family affected is the family of Trayvon Martin. They have lost a child–a child who still had potential ahead of him. He was not perfect–he was a teenager, and anyone who has ever parented a teenager knows that they can be challenging. Some have said that the jury should have heard about his school suspensions, including one for possession of a small amount of marijuana, and that they should also have heard about his social media posts boasting of his prowess at fighting. Perhaps… But I would hate for my grandson to be forever judged by his school suspensions for stupid remarks and actions; they are not necessarily who he really is.

But George Zimmerman’s family has also been forever changed. For the past year they have waited, not knowing what the future would hold. And they still don’t know. Again, some have said that the jury should have heard about his previous domestic assault charge–saying that proved his propensity for violence. Perhaps… But again, does one previous violent act determine who one is?

Zimmerman was found not guilty. In one way he and his family are free–but he will be forever marked by the charge. It will be difficult–if not impossible–for him to return to anonymity, and if he ever makes a mistake, there will be those lying in wait to argue that that just proves he was guilty.

In so many ways, this is a tragedy…a tragedy that could (and should) have been averted. There are so many “what ifs”… What if Trayvon Martin had not gone to the store? or taken another way home? What if George Zimmerman had not followed him? had let the police take care of the situation? Was there another way to defuse the situation? Or were both individuals so scared of each other that once their paths intersected the end was almost inevitable?

Some have said that this was not about race but rather about the actions of two individuals. That may very well be true, but there are racial overtones that seem to have served as an unspoken foundation. I am white, and so I have difficulty understanding some of those overtones. The closest I can come to understanding it comes from an African-American friend who has sons about the age of my own–and when they were both teenagers and we were worried about the stupid decisions they were making, I worried about the impact they would have on my son’s future; she was worried about whether her sons would have a future or whether someone would response to their decisions with life-ending violence.

Perhaps there can yet be something good coming out of this tragedy. Can it open discussions about our love affair with guns? Can we talk about our gut reactions to seeing someone of a different race in our neighborhoods? Can this situation open avenues for serious discussions with our children about the consequences of actions? If so, then there is still hope, and while the tragedy will never go away, perhaps another pair of families will be spared having to go through it themselves.

Too much information easily available?

I love much of modern technology…it has made it possible for me to make connections with friends who live far away–or who I’d lost contact with. It allows me to be part of several communities of widely-scattered people who might never have met each other afterwards. There are incredibly beautiful pictures and meditations available…and I am thrilled when I can find information I need quickly (and when that information sometimes leads me to a serendipitious discovery I might now have found otherwise).

But…

I sometimes wonder if that very ease is also problematic…especially for our young people.

It was difficult enough to be a teenager…with raging hormones and impulsive behavior…when I was a teenager. I remember some of my classmates who weren’t able to control them in a healthy way…one who was married for the first time when she was 14. Even later, when I was teaching, there were still kids who had problems–including two of my female sophomore students who got married when they discovered they were pregnant. Marriage is enough of a challenge for adults–much less, children who are expecting children.

I also remember the first (and only) time I looked at a Playboy magazine. It was when I was in college–and a classmate was the Playmate of the Month. In our small, rural, conservative college town, that issue sold out rapidly–and I’m not sure there were any within about 15-30 miles.

That all seems so innocent now…especially when some ads today for a major clothing store that caters to young people border on pornography. And pornography itself has become so much more accessible…if you have a computer, it’s there.

And despite talking and talking, kids still don’t seem to understand the dangers of sexting… It isn’t just a simple stupid decision; it’s a stupid decision that could carry lifelong consequences…and yet, the impulsiveness and the ease (and the raging hormones) seem to override common sense.

I don’t want to go back to the “good old days” because there were problems then–we just didn’t necessarily talk about them, and I think the openness and the ability to talk about them is important. But somehow there has to be a balance between the ease of technology and the need to find ways to protect our children from themselves…from too much too soon.