A recent story has really shaken me; three bored young men in Oklahoma killing an Australian hiker for sheer pleasure.  How did we get to this point as a society? Where do we go from here? It certainly can be frustrating and frightening to look at the future when these things make the news, but I don’t think it will get much better if we don’t make some cultural changes.

I heard yesterday on  NPR’s “Diane Riehm Show,” a discussion about raising the standards on our teachers, not in their performance, but in their entry to the profession.  If we identify people who really care, who have a talent for teaching, and who have a positive outlook, we have a better future for our youth.  But we need more than that.

When I was homeschooling I introduced Albert Schweitzer, Stanley and Livingstone, and their contemporaries. Though we tried several times, it was nearly impossible to find anything in print about these pioneers.  My goal was to instill a “Reverence for Life,” in my son, so that he would consider his effect on others.  It worked for him, but I think these people need to be brought to more attention to our young people.

These young men were looking for a “thrill,” and a way to kill their spare time. Wouldn’t it be a better use of their time to instill a thrill FOR life, instead a thrill kill?  If young people today were taught constructive skills, such as growing, baking, carpentry, sewing, or mentoring, they could feel the reward of launching something, rather than ending.  From my experience things that are quick to come to an end, even a candy bar, are less satisfying than the long term benefits of watching something become “real,” from my own efforts.  It’s a lasting “high,” that inspires more ways to chase that thrill and leaving beneficial results in its wake.

Where did these ideas get lost? I’m no expert, but it seems to me when we started shortening answers to fit into computer bubbles, we made things simple, and black and white. But life isn’t that defined, and we need to introduce kids to shades of grey early so they can learn that every step makes a difference on that “shade of gray” continuum.

Our society has decided that “burning energy,” is best spent in sports, or drama, or ways that get people’s attention.  There’s nothing wrong with those things, but they don’t reward quiet success. They offer short term glory, but to “succeed” children aspire to professional sports contracts, stage and screen awards, all of which are highly competitive, and extremely frustrating to chase.  Imagine a place where elders taught how to prepare a great meal from local food, mentors showed kids the value of time given to someone for no financial gain, and a network is built to hold people up when they stumble. Those are skills that we need to cultivate for a liveable, sustainable society. That’s what we’re working on NCSC.

If we don’t do something on a local level our nation will continue to unravel.  Whether the proposed Australian boycott actually happens or not, imagine the impact on our economy if tourism falls off because people are too afraid to come here?  If we let angry people take control; let selfishness take the place of community and encourage competition over cooperation, we cannot change the direction of our culture. I’m not saying that there’s no place for anger, selfishness or competition but they should be folded into a great sense of good intent and community spirit or we risk a future where young people continue to laugh at death, aspire to violence and indulge in self-pity instead of generosity. We need to nurture that reverence for good, for life and for potential.  It’s not rocket science. It’s just common sense, which is part of what we’re missing as a society too.  Can you support that?  I do.

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