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6 Things You Want Your Kids To Be Able To Do – pt 2

April 3, 2019

There are more than 6 things, but I’ve limited myself to a manageable list.  Here’s what I came up with.

  • To know the difference between needs and wants
  • To know the difference between suffering and inconvenience
  • To know how to sacrifice for someone or something
  • To know how to express their emotions in appropriate ways
  • To know how to make, save and spend money
  • To know how to say yes and no

Last time, I wrote about knowing the difference between needs and wants.  This time, let’s think a bout knowing the difference between suffering and inconvenience.

That doesn’t sound like rocket science, does it?  But when you begin thinking it through, you realize that our culture has absolutely no idea about this.  None.  Nada.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  My parents (who are now both deceased) were part of a generation that actually knew the difference.  People who grew up during the Great Depression and World War II know about this difference, first hand.  Sociologist call this generation the Greatest Generation (thanks to Tom Brokaw).  According to research by the Washington Post, the final member of the Greatest Generation should die around 2046, so there are still lots of these people around.

They’re at the fringes these day, though.  I’m not talking about people in their 70s.  Those people are older Baby Boomers, the children of the Greatest Generation.  The people in this shrinking generation are in their 80s and older.  Many of them were movers and shakers in their prime, but by now, they’re either moving out of those roles or have been out of them for a long time.  To a large degree, their influence is shrinking with their demographics.

My generation (Baby Boomers) grew through our adolescence and beyond believing our parents and their generation were out of touch and irrelevant.  Our enthusiasm for this idea, along with the numerical superiority of our demographic (which, incredibly, actually exceeded our feelings of intellectual and social superiority) made our sense of their irrelevancy the winner in the arena of ideas.  That’s a lot of words to say, “We pushed these geezers to the margin.”

Few in my generation and the succeeding generations have experienced actual suffering.  Wars have continued, and with them, casualties of war.  Men and women (and boys and girls) have gone to war and come home wounded, disabled, in caskets draped with American flags.  This thin slice of the generational pie knows about suffering.  The rest of us pretty much don’t.  We have no personal experience with it.

When I can’t find my favorite brand of K-cup coffee at our little Walmart, suffering through with something inferior, which they’ve got on their limited shelf, feels like a bigger deal than it actually is.  It’s a comic (sad) illustration of the fact that I often mistake inconvenience with suffering.  The same thing goes for cable and satellite TV limitations, slow internet speeds, a weak mobile phone signal, and a few hundred other things.  My life (and yours, too, probably) has been made so easy and convenient that anytime circumstances bump things a little bit off center, if things get a little inconvenient, it can feel like we’ve got to “suffer through it.”  Really?

If you want to discover real suffering, you’ll need to travel out of your neighborhood.  Even if you think you live in a crumby neighborhood.

Go to the “3rd World” (which is now more Politically Correctly called “Developing Countries”), and you’ll see actual suffering.  But only if you get away from the resort or the tourist areas.  The resorts and modern hotels will lead you to believe that things there aren’t that bad.  And they’re not, as long as you don’t stray beyond the resort walls or the street the hotel’s on.  Cross our boarders south and go beyond the tourist district and you’ll encounter suffering.  But when you go there, be careful.  Part of the suffering that goes on there is due to the fact that it’s not safe there.

Actually, you don’t have to get out of the country.  Go to any big city in America and carefully go into the ghettos during daylight

Really, you don’t need to go that far.  A nursing home will introduce you to suffering, if you bring yourself to look closely enough.  Lonely people whose world has been reduced to one room in a big building.  (By the way, I’m not disrespecting nursing homes.  I’m thankful that we are blessed with good ones that take good care of people who can’t care for themselves.  These won’t make the news.  The ones who break the law or withhold care, or where careless negligence happens get the headlines, but they are far outnumbered by compassionate care institutions.)

Or go to a children’s hospital and walk the halls.  Look into the eyes of moms and dad and grandmas and grandpas who know they’re losing their boy or girl.  This, too, is actual suffering.

So I have two things on this.  First of all, don’t talk about inconveniences as if they were suffering.  Your kids will pick up on this instantly, and they will be your first and worst mimics.  Verbally identify inconvenience for what it is.  Can’t get all the channels you want on your cable or satellite system?  Get over it.  Have to go somewhere else to get your favorite coffee?  Get over it, Steve.  Amazon can’t get your stuff to you overnight.  Get over it.  Generally, just get over it.  Virtually nothing in the common, ordinary life you and I live fits in the suffering category.  Suffering, actual suffering, is happening in the cancer ward, in the famine-struck regions of Africa, in Nebraska’s farm belt where hundreds of thousands of acres of farm land stands under water and billions of dollars of destroyed homes and implements are left behind as the flood waters recede.

Second thing: travel.  Go.  Get out of your neighborhood.  Take your kids with you.  And don’t stay inside the resort walls.  Do some homework and expose your family to what real life is like off the cruise boat.  Cross oceans if you can.  Visit missionaries.  Visit orphanages.  Almost nothing will expand your kids’ perception of the difference between suffering and inconvenience like travel will.  It’ll change you, too, and that’s a good thing.

From → Marriage, Parenting

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