I was told to think about something. So I did.
My church was sent a letter. It was from a reporter at our local news paper who was asking the community, community leaders, and churches to get involved with a solution to a problem he has seen our small town has.
The problem is: Kids are all over town with nothing to do.
Because of bored kids, vandalism has become a serious issue in the town. Since I moved to the town, I have been reading about the problem nearly every week. Notices in the paper asking everyone to please report anything suspicious, so that maybe this time the police can do something rather than simply make a report and clean up the mess.
The reporter had a big idea for a community center. The description sounds like a recreational center. A great big building filled with fun stuff for kids to do.
I'm all for it. I do have a question though.
How far will we go?
At what point will we decide to stop building places and rooms for them to go to, toys and games and gadgets for them to use, and handing them cell phones so they can check in with a simple text message?
When will we stop and say these kids are worth something more valuable than money - our time.
I simply tried to mow my yard this weekend and ended up with an audience of 6 children. I've never met new children in my house though. I always seem to have to go outside for them. If I want to impact the children in my neighborhood all I have to do is go outside. I can sit in my backyard and throw a ball in the air and children will eventually show up. If I go outside and do this every night, I'll shortly find myself stepping out the door to a waiting crowd.
It wouldn't cost me a dime. But it could very well cost me a few hours.
But I doubt the reporter would send out a letter asking for parents, community leaders, and churches to all give up our time, give of ourselves and teach these kids. If he's smart, he probably knows that not too many people would be willing to. I know very well it's 95 degrees outside when I go home. I don't want to go outside either.
It's easier to buy a game. I spent 3 dollars at a thrift store for a game called Torx. I handed it to my niece and nephew and the next 45 minutes were entirely hassle free. I got a lot accomplished. But, it's not the same as when I look them in the eye and say "this time is yours, we're going to spend it together". It doesn't mean you're doing silly things, or playing a game. Sometimes it means you're teaching them how to do laundry. Sometimes it means you're reading a book. Sometimes it means you're just talking about the day.
Kids aren't much to talk to sometimes. I've heard a whole lot of jibber jabber. I've heard words and sounds that I don't understand from the younger kids, and way too many words about virtually nothing from the older ones. But deeply embedded in those words is some priceless information about who your kid is, and how they feel about things you didn't believe they thought about.
The thing is, it works both ways. When you sit down and actually talk, not just convey instructions and schedules or rules, they're able to find out who you are. And how you feel about things they believe you've never faced before.
You can build a big building and send them off to play. They'll enjoy it. Say! I would even enjoy it. 45 minutes of peace and quiet in the house seems priceless. But it's not priceless. It just cost me 45 minutes of my kids life. The only question is what I'm going to hold as more valuable.