It’s taken me quite a while to process the events that have happened in our country recently. So many hashtags. Taking sides. Blame. Hate. I sit here reading article after article wondering how in the world little old me fits in this big puzzle of pain that America is suffering. People keep saying, I can’t believe what is happening to America. I think it has always been like this, but just maybe before the age of information I was spared the details of tragedies happening far away from me. Or maybe the news reported the news instead of spinning it to get clicks, likes, and views. Whatever the case is, I know that I am now guiding my children, teaching students, and living my life in an America that feels much different than it felt to me before. I am not sure where I fit. What’s my responsibility? I am a middle aged, middle class white woman who is in pursuit of happiness, so what impact do I make? How do I help heal the hurt of America?
Hurt people, hurt people. I hear this from so many pastors. It is true. The people of our country are walking around and acting out of their pain. When we hurt, we hurt others because it is very difficult to climb out of pain to act in love. We can barely do this in our own homes and with the people we say we love, let alone extending that to a stranger. I have had some long talks with The Big Guy these past few years and I feel like He has dealt with a lot of the deep pain I have felt. I am finding it easier and easier to love the people around me. Even people who have cut me and my family to the core. So, I figure my responsibility is to love. I am taking sides with humanity and I think I have a few ways that we can set this nation back on track to do the same.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America, 1 out of every 3, live in biological father-absent homes. We are raising a nation of fatherless children.
This doesn’t even include the fatherless kids due to work-aholic, alcoholic, or emotionally absent fathers in the actual home. Broken families. Abandoned children. Work-a-holic dads. The statistics and facts are too numerous for this blog. Poverty, crime, incarceration, teen pregnancy, poor school performance, foster system, poor mental health, suicide, obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, depression, promiscuity. No matter the race or socioeconomic status, the “father factor” touches it all.
Our nation needs to take fatherhood seriously.
From teen dads to the dad who works too much, each of these men needs to rise up into the role he was given. Children need guidance and direction from both of the parents they were given in order to form healthy identities. We are raising a nation of boys who have lost the importance of hard work and purpose. Girls who are insecure and about to collapse trying to earn love through their looks. Good fathers teach sons how to become men and model loyalty. They pass down identity, purpose, hard work, and discipline to their boys. Good fathers model the love, security, and acceptance their daughters need to grow confident and strong in who they are. Without this, we have little boys becoming scared, purposeless, angry or apathetic men and little girls becoming scared, hurting, insecure women, both searching for purpose and belonging.
Churches need to start getting serious when talking about the role of dad in the home. Churches and communities need to hold out a hand to teen and single dads and support them as much as we do teen and single moms. Moms need to stop gate-keeping the relationships between their husbands and kids and allow and expect dad to be dad in the home. Courts need to stop pitting mother against father for the sake of the all mighty dollar and start expecting an equal co-parenting relationship as the starting point of all custody arrangements.
Stop making dad a paycheck and a weekend visitor. Parents in divorce and unmarried situations need to work out arrangements that keep both parents equally and actively involved in their children’s lives. Heck, maybe if dads were in the picture fully from the beginning, there wouldn’t be so many divorces later. Men in all walks of life need to step up and mentor children who are without a dad and start guiding them and speaking life into them so they can rise up to find purpose and be healthy and whole. Let’s start here.
Take Charge of the Attitudes in Your Home
My family is a Heinz 57 blend of humanity. Black. White. Old. Young. Gay. Straight. One thing it has taught me is to always look for the best in people. We are raising Sweet V and the Bonus to see beyond the stereotypes of race. Let’s face it, we are all different even within our race. But I don’t want my kids grouping people due to race, behaviors, or income. People are people period.
Children really are color blind and love and play and get along until someone teaches them not to. My daughter is 5 and only recently made the realization that her cousins had darker skin. One of them said to her, “that’s because I’m black.” Sweet V, says, “No you are not. You are dark brown and my skin is light brown.” She asked later why she doesn’t get to be dark brown too and I explained that God made people different in so many ways just like the animals, trees, and flowers. All people are different and special, but we are all the same too. We talk about all the things she and her cousins like to do together that make them the same. When she is old enough, we will talk about injustice and racism, but for now I teach her to love all people and find what makes us all alike.
With the Bonus it is different. He has had a longer life experience and hasn’t been raised in a racially diverse family from day one. We are frank with him about the facts of history. We teach him the difference between right and wrong treatment of people no matter what his friends think. We have taken him to the African-American History Museum and Holocaust Museum to show him life different from his. We don’t allow him to repeat racist jokes he hears from his peers and challenge him to dig deep when he talks about racial stereotypes. We remind him that not all Muslims are terrorists and that hatred comes from individual hurting people passing their hurt along.
Attitudes and character are passed down from generations, so I want to make sure our family is passing down an attitude of grace, love, and acceptance of all people. We won’t pass down a perpetuation of stereotyping and judgement of people groups. And we will teach our children to seek first to understand others and then respond in love over judgement.
Change can start from your own home. Teach your children to build bridges to connect rather than islands that separate us all. Teach them to really listen to others. Let’s start here.
Educating People out of Poverty
Me, my little bro, and some of my cousinsPoverty is stressful. It is incapacitating. It is drudgery. It is extremely difficult to get out of. It has been said that education is the key to eradicating poverty. And I agree, but the current education system and “state adopted federal guidelines” have it all wrong when addressing this.
They say if we can just assure that all students know a specific set of common standards from K-12, they will go on to college and careers and the world will be a better place. Sounds great on paper.
As a public educator, I have worked in both high poverty, mostly minority districts and a middle class mostly white school. Children are children no matter where you are, but there is nothing beneficial about placing the same common standards and expectations on all children.
Teachers need autonomy in schools with high poverty rates.
They need the freedom to scrap the lesson plans and have a class meeting to reach the hearts of their children BEFORE presenting the lesson to 30-40 students coming from a variety of stressful, abusive, disgraceful, hungry situations.
Preparing a child’s heart, body, and mind to learn takes time. Sometimes teachers have to repeat this process daily or multiple times a day. Pushing through a set of standards and teaching to a test does very little in the long run for the child who needs to be fed, feel safe, heard, helped and loved. High poverty schools have neither the resources or autonomy to get that important job done before presenting the ABCs and 123s that are necessary for job success. These schools need to be safe. Teachers need to have necessary supplies and support to meet the physical and emotional needs of each child and teen before they can start cramming academics. It’s like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. But it isn’t impossible. Let’s start here.
Spread a Jesus Culture
The term Christian is supposed to be for those who follow Christ…Jesus. Jesus didn’t bring a religion. He brought relationship and over time, people turned it into a religion. A set of standards. But from what I read and hear from some Christians, I don’t want to be called one. Too many Christians are spending time cleaning up the outside to appear to be good. They are squeaky clean on the outside, avoiding the big things that can send them to jail or draw side eyed judgement from other Christians, but the sins in their hearts are forever imprisoning them and the people around them.
Unforgiveness, bitterness, prejudice, anger, hatred, lies, fear, jealousy. These attitudes and burdens we carry with us are equally as dangerous and destructive.
We don’t need a Christian culture. We need a Jesus culture. People willing to love when others hate. Give when others take. Heal when others destroy. Build when others break. Care when others cry. Forgive when others hold grudges. Listen when others shout. Bring peace when others bring chaos. No matter what religion you are or are not, this set of standards that JC walked with can’t be argued to be bad. The easiest way to shed the dark and shine the light is to actually walk with the light, Jesus. He changes us from the inside out and that is what will eventually change this nation. Let’s start here.
Rather than saying if the police would only do this and black people would only do that, maybe we can start checking our own attitudes and actions.
Hurt people, hurt people.
If we start taking responsibility to mend our own hurts, we can start to be bridge builders. We can raise our children to be different. We can reach out when everyone else slams the doors. We can change America one home and family at a time. Fatherhood. Home. Education. Jesus Culture. And a whole lotta love.Life is good…if we make it that way.
What can you do differently in your own home to help heal our nation? Let us know in the comments.
Keep making your house a love filled home.
High five for home!