Teaching is not a job. It is a calling. Those who consider it merely a way to pay bills and fill the fridge are in the wrong profession.
I have no idea how most teachers become teachers. I only know how I became one. It was an accident, at least from my end. Fifteen years into spending quality time with adolescents I understand absolutely and completely that there is no other thing on God’s green earth I would rather do. Nothing.
These young folks surprise. Sometimes they are the freest beings on the planet. Sometimes they are little Atlases, burdened with all the cares in the world. Sometimes they have hearts as big as the universe. Sometimes they commit petty acts of cruelty. They are tribal and run in packs. And they can be absolutely ferocious in defending one of their own.
But almost every single one of these teenage creatures posses a laugh that will simply melt an adult unless he is made of coal. It takes so little to make them laugh. Why is this?
And more teen stuff: They have not learned of the evil that men do. These young types really have no idea of evil as what it really is, a creature, a malevolent being whose only intent is to destroy them.
Adults can be oblivious to what stuff is going around in a teenage head. Adults get so caught up in the responsibilities of parenthood and such that they come to believe that the smaller creatures in their care run on auto-pilot—give them food and mall money and all will be well.
So here comes another one of my ‘Indisputable Facts of the Universe.’ Every problem of every teen in this nation springs from the thoughtlessness or the unkindness or the cruelty or the ignorance of some adult. You see, it is we who teach these things to young folks. We teach them in how we act, in what we say, in the promises we do not keep.
Teenagers are not stupid. They have eyes. They have ears. And they are in no way as foolish as adults would have them to be. If you think they are, pardon me but you don’t know what you are talking about. You need to get out more.
Here are the basic needs of these young adults:
Love—lots of it, more than you think you can give. Pray for more love so that you can give it away. It’s free, you know.
Kindness—each and every moment. There is never an excuse—never, not ever—for cruelty.
Time—pay attention to those young creatures in front of you for they are more important than anything else in the universe at that moment they need you. And forget that pop-psych gibberish about quality time. It is quantity time adolescents need. If you will not give it to them I assure you someone else will.
And, of course, food. Adolescents are not particular about this. It amazes how many problems can be resolved over chocolate chip cookies. Sit down and eat with a kid.
They also have questions, some of which would befuddle Socrates but all of which deserve answers. Here is a selection of them, each with an answer. In no way will these answers be sufficient but I will do the best I can.
And you adults who are reading this: You might not like the answers I give but for the love of Heaven do not ignore the questions. They are asked by your child too—and also by adults whether they admit it or not.
Why do people become ‘friends’ with other people just to say they have friends?
Let us not make the common error of saying ‘friends’ when we really mean ‘acquaintances.’ Acquaintances come and go with the wind. Friends stay no matter what you do.
Some people treat friends as things to stack-up and show off. The belief here is ‘the more friends I can display the more popular I will be.’ Adults are prone to this error too.
It is hard for girls to make long-time friends from the 8th grade on through college. The reason is the competition for boys. As single girls become married women with kids they make friends with other married women with kids—perhaps their old school-girl friends now married and grown up.
Boys make friends in 8th grade through high school that they keep forever. Boys are different than girls, you know. Simpler too.
Why do people say they will love you forever, and then when you love them they walk away?
Jesus had a similar problem. Those 12 He chose to be His all abandoned Him, in spite of what they had promised. The lesson here is that an intimate love is like chastity and gold, a rare thing. And like those things it is difficult to find. It takes work and pain until it is found.
Love can burn with a painful fire. When one person says love he means a warmth like a candle. When another person says love she means an all-consuming fire. The candle-love person will be frightened away by the fire-love person.
The lesson here is to not give your heart away easily. Adolescents do this too often. Adults do it too seldom.
Why do parents think that when you get older your little siblings need them more than you do?
Because they do. When you were a babe your parents gave you all they had. Now that you are older they do the same thing for your younger brothers and sisters. You are expected to understand this.
Hard words, yes. But very true ones. When you are a mother you will do the same. Sometimes the best you can do is to help your parents in all things to do with your younger siblings. This is one way to spend time with them.
Not good enough of an answer I know. But sometimes the best we can do is not good enough. Life is like that at times.
Why does a good young man get into a wreck and never walk again, but a young man in a gang who got shot will walk out of the hospital?
This question and all of its forms has been asked by every human being since Adam and Eve—better, since Cain and Abel. The short answer is that there is no worldly answer that will satisfy. The long answer is to leave such things to God. He is under no obligation to give you an answer. Job learned this lesson, yes?
If you love Him—and not with candle warmth but with an all-consuming fire—you will understand that He is in charge. These things happened because He allowed them too. He knows what He is doing.
Of course this answer might not satisfy, but then it is a question of getting on your knees and going to the source of all Love. One day you might not feel the need to know the answer, though.
Why do parents think they know what is best for you, even if they are wrong?
Because they are usually right. Where you are now they once were. And when they are wrong they do not know they are wrong. No one escapes this confusion. But some Carpenter said to ‘honor your mother and father.’ He did not say to do this only if you thought your parents were right.
Most parent-child questions will be solved when the child herself becomes a parent. Yes, I know: Not a great answer. But obedience to parents is seldom a crime, while rebellion to parents almost always is. The Old Testament is absolutely clear on this.
Rebellion in the home destroys familes and nations. If you fear the state of our nation you need look no further than this.
Why can’t everything be fair?
You do not know what you are asking. A world where everything was ‘fair’ would be a totalitarian nightmare not fit for any human to live in. Was it ‘fair’ that Mozart played the violin superbly at 6? Of course not. Well then, let us break a few of his fingers so that he would play the same as everyone else.
Was it ‘fair’ that a Carpenter was executed for your crimes and for mine? No. But what sort of world would we have if this great ‘unfairness’ never occurred?
Fairness of opportunity is confused with fairness of outcome. But both are impossible. We are born with different traits and talents. This beautiful world celebrates such things. A world that did not would be intensely boring and not worth the time to live in.
When you find your life-time mate it will be the ultimate in unfairness that he loves you and does not love another. Will you complain at this unfairness? No, you will demand it.
What you really mean by ‘fairness’ is justice—the good are rewarded and the bad are punished. Human law does its best to achieve this. It regularly fails, but what of it? True justice is impossible on this earth. But we do the best we can.
Your question is one of theodicy. It has troubled theologians and philosophers for thousands of years. No answer in the here and now will suffice completely. You will have to wait until the There and Then.
Ok, enough for now. And of course my answers are too easy or simplistic or just not good enough. I plead guilty as charged.
Sometimes the questions asked by young men and young women have no answer in this world. Then it becomes simply a question of Love.
It is always a question of Love.