One of the hardest things for me in dealing with the generation gap with my grandchildren used to be keeping up with the latest verbal expressions. I’m not talking about bad four letter words. My own grandchildren are respectful enough to not use those around me if they use them at all but I remember when the word “cool” was popular. Erin, my granddaughter, visited us for a week. After she left I asked her step-granddad what he thought of her. Without hesitation he replied, “Cool!”
Since “rad” I haven’t even tried to keep up. But did I say words were one of the hardest things? I take that back. There are harder things by far! For instance drug addiction. I was just talking yesterday with a young man about my “then” and his “now.” Specifically, we spoke of the drug culture that seems to be sweeping over the country, especially with youth. We concluded that growing up with all the privileges of affluence, proper schooling, etc. does not always promise success. Kids get off track for any number of reasons. Escape by yielding to temptations which are clandestine has become so widespread that it has reached proportions of an epidemic.
When I was in most of my growing up years in Minnesota I lived in the country two and a half miles from town. Those were years of the great depression when everyone felt the pain. World War II brought out our best efforts. It also brought inflation, but took us out of the depression. (Note, I don’t dignify that word by capitalizing it.) Young people in our school, like myself, didn’t have the rich kid privileges then but often they struggled with temptations like night clubs, beer, and cigarettes. (And, of course, sex, as in all ages.) I don’t know why these did not tempt me beyond restraint but I suspect having to take my mother’s place at the age of fourteen after her death plus my dad’s ground rules and the responsibility of self discipline spared me. In town I might have had peer pressure. Still, I think my two grandmothers can take most of the credit. I wouldn't have disappointed them for the world.
The young man I mentioned above grew up in relative affluence and with a good family. Where acres of orange groves blanketed Southern California in my junior high school days now in his day vast crops of tall sleek buildings sprout skyward, wide freeways and neatly planned suburban homes with double and triple garages have taken over. Now when some kids find school too restrictive they become fun lovers, beach bums, and free souls until mom and pop won’t put up with it any longer. Then this new depression begins to teach them the meaning of poverty. The scarcity of jobs and lack of purpose has driven too many to theft, alcohol, drugs, hospitals and even jail.
A day or so ago one of my granddaughter’s friends died of an overdose of heroin. He was not the first. This set me to wondering how I can help more than a few donations. I don’t anticipate joining one of the homeless shelters or drug recovery organizations. At my age I don’t feel up to that but there’s one thing I can do and I am beginning to engage in it more heartily. I pray.
Not by trying to lure them into my church, although I know if they came of their own volition and understood its teachings they could be not only helped by my church but healed. Some of those youngsters are, indeed, turning to churches and other organizations that recognize a “higher power.” A lot of good is going on in this way. I know there’s a power in prayer that can turn the tables of despair into hope and healing.
In my own prayers I start with solutions rather than problems. I call that scientific prayer. In mathematics we study what is fact. We don’t start with 22+22=30 or any other mistake to work our way up to the right answer, 44. We could spend a lifetime trying to learn truth through mistakes and not get very far. The better way must be to learn the facts, the laws, and simply stick to them. So, with moral and physical problems I start with declaration of the truth right where problems claim to hold sway and I stick to the truth until it becomes evident and problems are seen simply as lies. Believe me, it is not easy! But I know no other way to build our lives on truth. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” So said the greatest teacher who ever lived, Christ Jesus. He got the truth through prayer.
In the case of our children struggling with addiction, dishonesty, recklessness, I endeavor to see them as never having lost their innocency, purity and loveliness which were so evident in their baby smiles. That is the scientific truth about them and it has never been, could never be, taken from them any more than 22+22=44 could suffer loss through all the lies about it. Times may change but the truth never. This kind of prayer has healed me countless times and I know it can help to heal our children.
“I am an addict. I always will be one.” This may work for some, but why not say, “I am not an addict. I never was one. And I’ll never be one?” Then add, "I'll always be what God made me to be." When we say the truth often enough we come to believe it and prove it.
I like that. What’s more, I find it awesome, cool, and radical! I can say it for myself and I’ll say it today for all the kids who think they are addicts. Especially the ones who live where orange trees used to grow.