Suffer the li’l ones to come unto good . . .
Father Clement Paul, in a letter to the editor, has expressed some solidarity with Reverend Dr Michael Clarke –– who was sermonizing at the funeral last Thursday of youthful murder victim Lamar Carter –– that we need to bring or children to God from early. We could not agree more. How else will we save our young from the death-dealing perils that lawlessness spawns?
We take the point, as Father Paul put it, that “we have to sow seeds of respect, hard work, honesty, gratitude and love very early, if the future well-being of our nation is to be realized”.
And indeed the effort has to go beyond the annual ritual of schoolchildren being escorted to church for Ash Wednesday services to mark the start of Lent. The regular –– if not daily –– connection with God by our youth must be of their natural construct, encouraged and fostered by their teachers and role models –– not to mention their very parents.
Of course, while some church heads and community exemplars will speak out against unchristian practice and conduct in our schools, they may expect no quarter given from the indifferent brigade (“unruliness and bullying were always happening at school –– from the time Adam was a lad”); from the sex-for-all defenders (“sex in school is no recent phenomenon”); from the inerudite detractors (“there are more important things, like our sagging economy”), and from the groggy and misguided (“it’s just righteous indignation”).
Yesteryear, children were taught and encouraged to be children, growing up in the fear of the Lord, in anticipation of being adult, and then doing adult things. Children were allowed to be children –– nurtured in good habits and set examples of proper public behaviour: respect for self and others; decency; and an appreciation of other people’s space and property.
They were not exposed to radio personalities and moderators, in the name of freedom of speech, dissing God and Christianity –– ironically religiously –– and instilling the notion the Almighty need not be, nor is necessary in the upbringing of the child.
Today, buoyed by a misbelief that children need no divine influence or guidance, and are now more naturally mature in thinking, parents and guardians expose their charges to all manner of ill-suited conversations, habits and music –– to a great extent sexual in content and flavour –– befuddling the young ones as to their true role and purpose, and thus thwarting their proper and spiritual development.
And it helps not that the more senior among us –– and the supposedly more educated –– will seek escape in the idea that the growing misconduct among our children is just a fad, and that like many things in vogue will fade away with time. The truth is more of our youth are committing more offences today than ever before, and with greater intensity and morbidity –– for all the advances in education and career counselling we boast.
We assert that school is good to the extent that its hopes and achievements both within and without are valued and celebrated. And we urge, as Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave does on his school visits, that staff and students –– present and past –– stay committed to the success of their institutions, caring enough to encourage positive relationships and develop sound students’ self-esteem, as might be inspired by the Holy Word.
We stress that our children’s welfare and development rise above all other interests, and that their care and proper spiritual guidance must be at the centre of all interaction.
When our children suffer denial and neglect by the hands of those of us who should instead be mentoring them in righteous ways, we come to realize, quite too late, the dire consequences of the turning of our backs, and of our irrational words and irresponsibilities.
In short, the future of the child lies to a great extent in the hands of Mum and Dad, and Teacher –– or so it should.
On failure of this, the well-being of our state’s children may rest with our church leaders and all practising Christians –– a community of high social values.
Father Clement Paul was minded to awaken the memories of us all, in his letter to the editor, to the fact “that Jesus didn’t just preach and save souls; He fed, He healed, He gave hope, He showed concern and He gave all He had to empower others, especially the alienated. It is not too late to seek a better Barbados” –– for our children’s sake.
Nor, indeed, too late, we add, to find it!