Tag Archives: children

P#2 Promises to Tomorrow: Listening to the young

When Archbishop Tutu wanted to accelerate the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, there was a point, when he decided to spend his time only talking and listening to young people, people under 30. He felt that they were the ones who would be inheriting a post apartheid South Africa and so needed to understand what they could do together to create that future. This week in Chicago President Obama gave clear confidence and instruction to young people:

This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country. You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.

It is imperative we listen to children and young people, to understand why they are making the choices they are making. In volunteering they are putting their energy into environmental pursuits, leaving the services like Meals on Wheels to the retired; in the way they spend their time, they are giving some to themselves and more to being together with peers than any other generation sharing and connecting in such constant ways through social media and in real time; with their finances they are building new collaborative economies where access is more important than ownership. As the first generation of digital natives they are wired differently and have different priorities. Debt and cost of living, means they are more likely to save for an experience than a house. They are better informed about health and well-being and are spending more time and money investing in their bodies than previous generations. These trends exist world-wide and although there are definitely inequities and gaps in countries and between countries – these are still the general trends of a generation. Those born in the 1990s are coming of age now and leaving their youth and as they start to enter their 30s will be having their own children.

Children being born today are asking questions that were hidden in previous generations. An 11 year old I know who is the grandson of a dear friend of mine asked his mother a question this week:

If a person doesn’t identify as either male or female, when they or their partner has a baby, how do they decide if they are a mother or a father – can anyone have an opinion for example could one child call them mum but the other child call them dad, based on how they view that parent?

This is a question that might not have been asked in any generation before his.

My promise to the future is I will be curious and look for ways to listen in to younger people and children. I will pay attention to what they are saying on line, their art, the books they are reading, movies they are watching, games they are playing, questions they are asking. This means I need to be in places where I can hear, see and be exposed to their voices and find ways to bring them to my attention.

The young voice, the young mind, inspires and encourages. And for those who are in despair, grieving, abused or confused, we need to hear that too and animate, embolden and support them to take the steps they need to take to turn that around; or get out of the way so they can do it themselves, or move a barrier on their behalf. When you don’t have children in your life, you are not exposed to their wonder and awe at the world, and seeing the world through a child’s eyes does let you see the twinkle in the star.

Building optimism is essential to building a resilient generation, with depression in epidemic proportions amongst teens and young adults, I wonder if there is a correlation between that phenomena and not being heard? Paying attention to the early warning signs, that may not be voiced; asking simple questions like are you OK?; offering up a support when you detect one might be needed even if it is rejected is a sign you are sending that you are listening, noticing.

As a person in the older generation I promise to be a builder of hope. I will hold an expectation of potential and have a desire to listen to their questions with confidence those questions are planting seeds of tomorrow.

yes-we-can

Yes we can – Clare and Archie Jan 2017

Dancing with Speeches #44 Paul Keating

In 1993 Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating gave a powerful speech on the folly of war at the internment of the Unknown Soldier at the Australian War Memorial. Imagining what it would be like to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Child, a victim of war is the subject of this speech as we head towards Remembrance Day.

We do not know this little girl’s name. We don’t know who her parents are, if she had brother’s and sister’s who is missing her with an ache that won’t go away. We do not know if she was running towards or running away from danger when she died in this zone of terror. We do not know if was holding someone’s hand as she spent her last hours and if that hand was squeezed and glued tight fused together for solidarity and the hope of security. We do not know if she prayed to a god, looked to the stars, had breakfast, sang a song, knew how to skip. We do not know anything about her. We do know she is just one of hundreds, thousands of children who have been fleeing this zone of terror, this place where children’s voices are no longer heard, where giggles and tickles have been replaced by shrieks and sirens.

We know she is a child who witnessed atrocities no human, let alone a child should witness. We know she is a child who touched someone with her toothy grin smile. We know she is a child who did nothing to bring the terror to her town, the destruction of her neighbourhood and the raining of bombs that led to her death.

We know she is a child who was born of a woman, a woman who would have welcomed her into the world, who would have cradled her and soothed her with lullabies and snuggled in to feed her from the breast. We know she is a child born in a time of fear and where promise and hope were in very short supply. We know she is a child who’s father was probably not in town the day she died or perhaps had already been killed in the war raging all around them. We know she was born in the year the city fell and became the zone of terror.

We know this is a mad, brutal awful struggle where human collateral is factored in to the cost to bring more terror and fear. We know this is not the kind of world we want for our children. We know she is not the only child being mourned. We know we have our excuses, our failures, our shame. We know we have to draw on the deepest part of our selves to turn this despicable situation around. We know we cannot do this alone, we will have to work with enemies and friends who are invested in terror and destruction.

We will fail, we will stall, we will make mistakes … we have done all that before … and we will have to do it again and again and again.

The little one, the civilian, the one who is on the front line lies here. Us in our bunkers, flying the drones, signed up for service, being paid by the State make the mess it is the littlest, lowliest and invisible who pay the price.

Today we intern the Unknown Child to assert and remind us it is the child who needs to be at the centre of our decision-making; whose anonymous presence transforms our memory, our hearts and our heads to act for the generation of the youngest. We come to this tomb to hold the truth of the ones who have been loved and died in their homes, play spaces and fields. These are the ones to whom we are accountable.

In this place of silence, place your hand on your heart. Feel the beat of the blood pulsing in your heart, notice your breathe syncopating in even time, bring yourself to stillness and pray: Holy Innocence give us courage for peace making.