Beauty will save our children, Part 2–Leah Farish

     I was able to visit Riga, Latvia, a few years ago.  Since I was there with the nation’s Ministry of Education, we were able to visit a school outside the city.  The students themselves had been allowed to redecorate a few areas of the school, the first being the entry.  As we entered the rather old building, we felt a combination of drama and serenity I have never sensed in the foyer of a school building.  We looked up and the ceiling was painted a passionate blue, and spangled with gold stars.

The teenage students could hardly wait to show us the classroom they had decorated.

Desks had been replaced with tables for two, and the walls were hunter green.  Large windows admitted plenty of light, but each table was also warmed at its center by a brass study lamp.  We visitors were humbled by the unspoken message of these youngsters: “We want to learn, and we want to do it surrounded by beauty.”

Children naturally respond to loveliness and order.  This idea may be obscured under the mounds of toys, homework papers, and food debris they tend to leave behind when their lives aren’t ordered.  But they do crave it and they naturally celebrate it.  Look at the kids’ sheer delight and spontaneous movement to the music of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” in the online video, “Som Sabadell flashmob.”

I was about five I first heard a recording of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah.  I asked my mother, “Why are those people angry?”  She laughed and said, “They’re not angry, they’re happy.”  But somehow I gathered this was a different kind of happiness than five year olds usually feel.  Later I realized: it was fierceness.  As C.S. Lewis says of characters in his Narnia books, “Their joy was like swords.”  I was hearing the swords.  There was an intensity to that beauty that made me want to grow into it, that made me want to mature.

Warning: When kids are over-stimulated with an exaggerated clutter of artificial images—like the saccharine vistas of the laborious Avatar cartoon movie—they can lose sensitivity to the ordinary aesthetic wonders around them.  When children overdose on hectic, highly-produced media—earbuds at bedtime, 24/7 texting, constant car audio, video games, etc.—they may never find the pleasure of singing a song with the family or painting a picture for themselves.  If they never feel that anything they do, however small and imperfect, can be beautiful, they will quit trying to achieve it, and eventually to appreciate it in their everyday lives.  Don’t let them suppose that beauty is for “the experts.”

So expose kids to the Great Masters—and to the simple beauty of shadows, smells, and harmony.





Abandonment or Abundance- Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders

In my recent book, Generation iY—Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, I suggest a handful of reasons why kids today (Generation iY) are getting “stuck” and are disabled from growing up. They’re unprepared for life after school is done. Adulthood sneaks up and ambushes them.

I believe nearly every struggle a kid has today can be summarized with one of two words. They have had too much or too little adult involvement in their life. Certainly this is not true for every student. There are many homes and schools and churches in America that have spooned out the right doses of these two elements I am talking about. Sadly, millions of children have gotten too much of one of them. The words represent extremes—but they are a mouthful.

Many students experience one of two extremes: abandonment or abundance.

1.  Abandonment – Leaves them too empty of resources to know how to act as an adult.

2.  Abundance – Leave them too full of resources to function independently as an adult.

Jason’s dad abandoned him emotionally when he was six years old. Dad left him (and his entire family) when he was twelve. Jason is in his late twenties now but has never recovered. While he functions at a job, emotionally he is at the maturity level of a thirteen year old.

Keith is 27 years old. His problem is not abandonment. In fact, quite the opposite. His parents have done too much for him. When he needs money—his dad’s got it for him. When he needs his clothes washed—mom is there. When he needs transportation or entertainment—he’s got it. Keith is paralyzed emotionally because he never had to grow up. His problem is abundance.

Think about the young people you know who struggle with life. With few exceptions, I believe you can probably point to one of these two extremes—abandonment or abundance—as a cause.

Millions of students today are unable or unwilling to leave childhood and enter adulthood. But stop and think about it. Adulthood has never been more complex (taxes, the economy, healthcare, the job market, etc.) Adolescence has never been more pleasurable. What incentive do they have to leave their world and enter yours?

We must get them ready. I’m curious—how are you addressing these two extremes above? What are you doing to get young people ready for life?