The importance of filling young souls

Posted 2/22/18

The news out of Florida last Wednesday was too familiar. This incident was slightly different, in that there was obviously a breakdown of law enforcement, both from a “watchlist” standpoint and …

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The importance of filling young souls

Posted

The news out of Florida last Wednesday was too familiar.

This incident was slightly different, in that there was obviously a breakdown of law enforcement, both from a “watchlist” standpoint and follow-through-on-known-threats standpoint. Still, I wonder if this wasn’t just a tragic failure of education — if only he would have learned how to read, he could have seen all the signs that say a school is a “gun-free zone.”

However, the particulars of this incident aside, I do agree with everybody on every side of the aisle that we see this too much. And it can’t just be the ubiquitous presence of guns in our American life, and it can’t just be the incredible violence that is portrayed in every facet of our entertainments. Surely, those are important ingredients in a toxic cocktail that has polluted our national soul; but those ingredients exist for all 320 million of us — why do they only find tragic expression in a few?

When I was growing up, I loved to play “Dungeons and Dragons.”

At the time, there was a movement to curtail the game as a “dangerous influence” on young minds. There were a few incidents of young men losing contact with reality and living out some of their D&D fantasies in the real world, with horrible results. But nobody in my group, or our extended group, ever lost touch like that. None of us turned violent. Why not?

I believe very strongly that it is because my soul had already been filled. My parents made sure I went to church and learned the message of Christ. They also projected a sense of responsibility and of purpose to me, and, on top of that, they taught me right and wrong. And consequences. Whatever “demonic” influences may have been festering within the Dungeons never had an opportunity to take root in my soul.

I think, in this day and age, that the toxic cocktail of guns and violence have altogether too many empty souls to fill, and they claim them with relish!

So, from experience, as a son, as a father, as a coach, and as a teacher, I believe children need to be taught:

• They are unique, precious, and important

• Right and wrong, and consequences

• Good and evil are real, not just clever intellectual constructs

• Responsibility and purpose

• Strength, to become gentle

• Disappointment, to develop empathy

• Justice, that they may value mercy

• Accomplishment through hard work, that they may learn humility and develop grit

• Discomfort, so they can learn compassion

• Delayed gratification, that they learn hope

• Community, that they may abhor isolation

• Resilience, so that failure does not define them

• They are entitled to nothing in this world except what they are willing to work for.

• They deserve nothing except what their talents, their choices and their industry earn for them.

We have 50 years of shoddy child-raising to overcome, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Or, maybe, at all. But as families and as schools, we have to question why generations of our citizens are coming out of our institutions with nothing more beautiful on their minds than setting the world on fire just to watch it burn.

Today’s recommendation for something beautiful to fill your days is a book: “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. Set in Germany, Austria and France in the late 1930s and ‘40s, it is, as you might suspect, very uncomfortable in places. But, what makes it beautiful is both the exquisite language that Doerr uses — every sentence is an elegant bite from a gourmet meal — and the complex tale of love, perseverance and redemption under the most harrowing conditions imaginable. 

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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