by Tracie S. Burns
America has always been a worldwide symbol of endless opportunities. For hundreds of years, the visionaries and the dreamers have come to her shores with eyes and hearts filled with possibilities. Throughout the history of our great nation, any person could make his way with a little imagination and a lot of hard work.
Every mother dreams of her children having their best chances at a fantastic future. She dreams of raising her little ones to become young adults with purpose, respect for others, and a moral compass.
However, what are the statistics of this really happening in America today?
We hear much disheartening talk about the future of America. Some believe she can scramble back from the brink, while others proclaim her impending doom. There is a plethora of rhetoric out there that we can find easily through lending an eye or an ear to a screen or a radio.
I grew up on the edge of everywhere. We had always lived in that suburb that hugged the edge of urban sprawl which gave way to the concrete jungle. My brother and I were close enough to the city to ride our bikes on concrete, but far enough away that we never had to worry about staying on the sidewalk or using the crosswalks. It was not quite “Smalltown, U.S.A.” but was pretty close to it. We had a mom who loved us and cheered for us in all that we attempted. We had a dad who was hardworking, consistent, and who made time for us as young people. We were taught to work hard for what we wanted and to take pride in what we did. We were taught to keep our word and to respect others. Our parents never let anything, including us kids, come in the middle of their relationship. I grew up in a “Smalltown, U.S.A.” type of home.
Remember The Andy Griffith Show? My kids recently have enjoyed the reruns of those shows, and it warms my heart that even to this generation Barney with his one bullet in his shirt pocket is still hilarious. The Andy Griffith Show perpetuated the ideal American town. It was a town not without its problems and its drama, but it was a town filled with people who had good hearts with the best intentions and families with a mom, a dad, and respectful children. Dad went to work and came home happy to see his family and to enjoy time with them. Mom did her best to meet the needs of her husband and children. Even with not-so-perfect homes, there still remained a family structure under which the children could thrive, such as with Andy and Aunt Bea. They found a way to do their best for Opie in an otherwise not-so-ideal situation.
Now, let us imagine if we were to fast-forward 50-ish years and set this show in the modern day. Aunt Bea would actually own the house, and after his divorce, Andy would have moved back home. She would become frustrated helping to support him and Opie on her meager Social Security income. She would also be irritated at the fact that Andy would come home from work and play video games for several hours every night. Barney would come over for beers before he and Andy went out with the guys on Friday night. Andy would blame the partying on a need to unwind from all of the racial tension at work, always causing him to fear civil unrest from how the media would falsely spin anything that happened at the courthouse. Meanwhile, Opie would never ride his bike, but would walk home from school with his eyes glued to his smartphone while flipping his long hair out of his eyes. He would be sullen, withdrawn, and spoiled from all of the material things that Andy would shower upon him to make up for his lack of attention. Sounds like a terrible show, doesn’t it?
Today, America is filled with unhappy homes similar to the one I described.
America is no longer filled with small towns made up of friends and neighbors who are always there for each other when “the chips are down.” Yes, Americans still “want it all,” but the difference today is that very few want to work for it. Children are spoiled and are given everything they want (notice that I did not say “need”) because Mom or Dad refuse to say “no.” Children are not being taught to work for the “extras” because Mom and Dad want their children to feel accepted and for them to fit in among their peers. Parents would rather put a screen (with access to a wicked world) into their children’s hands than to send their children to go play outside. Today, “Smalltown, U.S.A.” is disconnected at home.
My parents’ generation were the hippies who rebelled against their parents. These parents were the Americans who grew up struggling through the Great Depression and fighting in WWII and in the Korean War. To the “baby boomers,” their parents, now known as the “Greatest Generation,” did not understand them. However, in spite of their rebellion, the baby boomers retained the character that was instilled in them by these great Americans. As a result, the baby boomers’ children—my generation—were taught to work. They knew that not everyone got a trophy, and they heard “no” often.
The damage done by my generation’s rebellion resulted in spoiling our children. We have given them everything that we would have had to work for in our day. As children, we got new shoes for school; now our children get the nicest, name-brand shoes. We got new bikes; now our children get motorized skateboards, ATVs, and brand-new cars at the age of sixteen. We got Ataris with Pong and Space Invaders; now our children have the latest Xboxes, PlayStations, and entire rosters of downloaded games. We would take the cordless phones into the other room and get in trouble for doing so; now our children are given cellphones on their tenth birthdays.
We are destroying the next generation with one “want” at a time, regardless of whether our intentions are good or not.
I am the mother of two school-age children. Do my children think our country is doomed? Do they believe they are destined to grow up in a country where it is faux pau to be a true and an outspoken Christian? Of course not! They simply look to my husband and I for much-needed love and security. They are excited when we have grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. They just want Mom to play Uno with them, to listen to the stories about their days, and to dispense the love and encouragement that they crave. Going to the library is an event, and taking a bike ride with Mom and Dad is a highlight. They are young, wonderful, and INNOCENT.
If I were to rely on my country to keep my children innocent, I would be a fool.
Daily, we hear of heinous crimes committed in the public schools. Many godless teachers stand in front of classrooms molding little minds into their way of thinking. Children are belittled and reprimanded for praying or for carrying Bibles or speaking of their Saviour; meanwhile, under the guise of “religious education,” children are being indoctrinated with an anti-God agenda.
There is a message pumped into society by the godless of this world. This humanistic mindset of “do what feels right” or “listen to your heart” will most certainly destroy my children’s innocence. Why? The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Just this verse alone disproves all of that humanistic rhetoric. Our own judgement is flawed and is not to be depended on for life choices.
People may wonder if keeping our children unspoiled and innocent is even possible in this day and age. There is a simple, but complex answer.
I grew up with two amazing parents who loved each other. To anyone, they seemed to carry all of the tools needed to instill in me the character to grow to be a balanced adult; however, these amazing Christians, who I called Mom and Dad, pushed me to discover and to develop even more character from other Christians within my church and school.
My high school principal was a man named Greg Beil. To this day, Mr. Beil is a Christian school administrator whose passion is helping young people succeed for Christ. Decades ago, he left his job as an engineer with Boeing in order to work at a Christian school. I believe that Greg Beil will be a mighty wealthy man in Heaven from all of his investments. Daily, and maybe without realizing it, he instilled nuggets of character into me and my fellow classmates.
One particular lesson that stays with me to this day was how he would ask students to pray for each other when they had tests that day. We would go around the room, and certain people would volunteer to pray for specific students. When there was hesitation (mostly due to the praying being out loud and the fact that we were all insecure teenagers), Mr. Beil would say, “What goes around comes around. If you want someone to pray for your test, you should pray for someone else’s test.” Because me and Algebra almost destroyed each other, I needed all the prayer I could get, so I would reluctantly volunteer to pray for others, mostly out of desperation to pass Algebra. Despite my fears and Algebra, the lesson stuck. Praying for others is one of the greatest things we can do for a fellow Christian; it is one of the greatest ways to give our love and to show Christ.
A lady in our church named Patty took a special liking to me when I was an awkward junior-higher. She and her husband were newly married and looking to get off to the right start by being involved in church and in the things of God as much as they could. Patty would let me come over to her house often. She paid me to clean her bathrooms and taught me to use a computer. She would talk about how great her husband was for being hard-working, kind, and funny. As a young person, I wanted to become that kind of wife one day and to have a husband with character whom I could admire, just as Patty admired her husband.
In the Christian school I attended in fourth and fifth grade, there was a music teacher named Mrs. Hackett who would come into our classroom once a week and teach a bit of music theory while creating some music appreciation. She would bring her violin and play while we sang. I grew to love singing, and even took up violin later in high school because of her. Mrs. Hackett once said, “I will give you one of the best ingredients for being a great church member: learn to play an instrument. If you do not wish to or cannot play an instrument, learn to sing. If you can’t carry a tune, cheer on the musicians and the singers. Everyone can participate in music!” To this day, I still love to sing. In some of the darkest days of my life I have found myself with tears streaming down my face while singing the words, “Come thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy praise. Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Calls for songs of loudest praise.” Through singing the songs of God, my soul is replenished.
Let us think back to who helped us to become who we are now. Who is that Christian who enabled us to make it?
Maybe it was an “Aunt Bea” who nurtured and encouraged. Perhaps there was a “Sheriff Andy” that taught character in a simple, attainable way. Who was that “Mr. Beil” or “Mrs. Hackett?” They may have had other names, but all of us have had youth workers, soulwinners, teachers, family members, or pastors who have made all of the difference for us, who have loved and nurtured us, and who have taught us priceless pieces of the character necessary to equip us for successful futures.
All in all, we are not alone in this fight for our children’s innocence.
We are surrounded by fellow Christians with nuggets of character and wisdom which can strengthen our children’s futures. We can still raise our children in an untainted America, teaching them to love, to work hard, to respect others, and to honor Christ. The church, the Christian school, and the home are all “workshops” where our “building materials” of character will lay a foundation to keep our children innocent, while preparing them to stand strong against the godless who want to destroy our country. Let us not feel insecure when our children make that teacher or youth worker their heroes; instead, we should be overjoyed that another Christian has our back. Let us revel in the fact that this Christian may be able to teach our children something that we could not. Let us be joyful that we are not alone in the fight to raise great Americans and balanced Christians. In our great land of opportunity and possibility, we can believe that with our Christ, our convictions, and our character our children can grow up in a country in which their heroes are not found on a music stage or on a reality TV show. Our children can have heroes who stand for what is right, honor the Lord, work hard, keep their word, and love America.
Singularly, each of us cannot fix this country. However, together on our little islands within this country—those islands that we call “HOME”—we can prepare our little “construction workers” with toolboxes of Christian character. When we send our grown children out into this country to make their way and to do whatever work God has for them, our America will be a better place. It will be a result of the contribution of these great Americans and these great Christians joining the ranks.
My children are still young, and despite the dour outlooks of our future as a nation, I have hope. Dark days have come and gone throughout history; in fact, the clouds of uncertainty will continue to drift by as they always have. I may not be able to change an entire country; but, I believe that Smalltown, U.S.A. can exist in my home and in every home in which Christ is honored.