Teach our Children Well

Written By Darryl M. Gumm - July 10, 2005
Revised March 19, 2007 & February 15, 2020

On July 9, 2005 and September 16, 2011, I became a grandfather to my awesome grandchildren. While I rejoice in their birth, this has prompted me to do some soul-searching about the world they have been born into and will inherit as they become adults.

For some time, I have done a significant amount of reading about current events in our world. Since my birth, almost 70 years ago, the world has become an increasingly dangerous place to live. In my lifetime, I have seen advances in medical, electrical, and engineering technology, all of which were topics of science fiction when I was a child. However, in spite of all this magnificent progress, humanity has not yet learned to live together in peace and harmony; which makes the technological advances of the past 70 years potentially lethal to humankind. Even though World War II was one of the costliest wars in the history, resulting in the deaths of millions of people, today’s high tech violent world, void of effective global leadership and individual responsible action, poses a more serious threat in terms of world-wide instability and potential long-term and ongoing carnage.

The people who are engaged in the violence of today’s world were not born with guns in their hands and explosives tied around their waists. They came into this world as cute, innocent children who only wanted to be given the necessities of life, consisting of food, water, shelter, safety, a stabile home, a good education and love. For the most part, the environment children grow up in shapes and molds them into the adults they become. There are exceptions to that, but not many. Some time ago, I came across these words of wisdom written by Dorothy Law Nolte. Read them carefully and you will begin to understand the point of this essay.

If a child lives with criticism, He/She learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, He/She learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, He/She learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, He/She learns to be feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, He/She learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, He/She learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, He/She learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, He/She learns justice.
If a child lives with security, He/She learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, He/She learns to like himself/herself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He/She
                           learns to find love in the world.

The world’s children are learning from us. Whether or not we are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers or preachers, today’s children are leaning from us. In my estimation, the state of today’s world can be directly attributed to the mixed signals adults have been giving children through the ages, right up to this moment.

1) How many children in today’s world do you suppose receive the necessities of life, consisting of food, water, shelter, safety, stability an education and love? As adults, what have we done or what are we doing to bring that about?

2) Children are learning from everyone around them. They observe how we talk, walk, work, love, hate, eat, drink, play, and the list goes on and on. As adults, all over the world, we are shaping the future by being a living example for children to learn from. The old adage, “do as I say, not as I do” simply doesn’t “cut it.” As adults, we can’t engage in extreme behavior and dictate to children to refrain from extreme behavior. It just doesn’t work that way. Never forget that children learn from everyone, not just the adults in their families.

3) We claim to be one nation under God. There are other nations around the world that claim to be very godly too. However, as my faith and spiritual life matured, I came to understand that God is Love. There is no love in the wars (killing games) which the world’s so-called “God-fearing” people are engaged in. Therefore, this futility is void of any God I know.

4) Those who claim to be guided by God, site the Bible as their “handbook for living.” In that handbook you will find some very basic rules for living. Don’t kill, don’t steal, love your neighbor, feed the hungry, visit the sick and so on. Yet, our nation “under God” has modified those basic rules and has made exceptions to justify the killing it does and puts restrictions on what neighbors we should love and tells us which ones we should hate. The result of this gross double standard is cute little babies growing up to be confused, cynical, and jaded. Some become monsters who hate, steal and kill?

If we are becoming a little weary of the volatility of today’s world, perhaps it’s time to look inward. Each and every person on the planet either contributes to its success or to its failure. We’re all in this together. If we do nothing to promote peaceful living, we become part of the problem and contribute to the dangerous world in which we find ourselves living. The course of action this world is taking is unacceptable and we have the power within ourselves to change that course, especially those of us living in the “land of the free”. Here are a few things we can do in our role as instruments of peace.

A) Throughout the world, meeting the basic needs of children, outlined in this essay, will go a long way in building a positive and hopeful foundation for the future.

B) Teach our children well. Our actions must be consistent with our words and both must be rooted in humane, civil and life-sustaining concepts. Anything short of that is simply unacceptable, especially in a world which has chosen the path to peaceful living.

C) We must stop using religion as a justification to hate, discriminate, kill and maim. Religion should bring hope to this world. If it doesn’t, it serves no useful purpose.

D) We must develop a “zero tolerance” for conflict and violence – in our world and in our personal lives. As long as we tolerate conflict and violence, for any reason, it will never end.

E) We must stop wasting natural resources, food, time and all energy, especially fossil fuels to which our addiction is destroying planet Earth.

F) We must make decisions based on solid science, truth, compassion and respect, and demand that of our leaders as well.

As I am moving well into my senior years, from time to time I reflect on what I want to leave my children and grandchildren. Many plan to leave an inheritance of money and material things. Perhaps we should all seriously consider leaving an inheritance of safer and more peaceful world. We can begin building our legacy today by living in ways which will result in a safer and more peaceful world, here and abroad.