The two types of people were juxtaposed this past month in a couple of events I have been involved in. A camp for kids who are at risk from falling through the education system as well as falling into the prison system, then a couple of meetings with a young guy who used to be in my youth group who has recently set up Spark* a fantastic leadership development not-for-profit organization to train leaders in the developing world, starting with PNG.
The camp I ran was for Alta-1, a great education program to help kids hold their education until they can either graduate to further study or into the work force. Many of these kids have done time in juvenile detention or/and have been kicked from school to school due to behavioural issues or simply learning ability. Some of these kids lack so many of the things people need to ‘make it.’ And by make it, I mean…the basics, healthy relationships, a job…any job, a place to live, a budget to enable them to eat and sleep somewhere, stay out of trouble and the like. Many, not all, but many, seem to lack serious EQ. Awareness skills. I sat there listening to some of the conversations wondering how they would do much with their lives. It sounds judgemental – I know – but that was what I was thinking. I even went to questioning the parenting. I had opportunity to spend the second week of the camp camping alongside one of the parents of the kids who came in week one. This Dad, I pre-judged the first time I met him. I judged him based upon the behaviour of his son on a previous camp I had run. But having 4 nights together around a campfire I was able to put aside my prejudices and get to know him a little better. I have heard myself saying, “it’s always the parents”, when it comes to kids and their behaviours. Well maybe parenting is a major part in teenage rage and misbehaviour, but I tell you this – This guy was a really nice guy with some very strong views on parenting and discipline. Not too heavy, not too light, he seemed to me – just right. Why then would his kid plant a brick through the front window of their house and the family car, then proceed to kick in all the doors in the house? Drugs? Maybe. But why drugs? Peer pressure? Maybe. But where did he learn how to choose his peers and be wise in these choices? Man!! Sometimes I wonder if there is a heap of luck in parenting. You just get what you get. Well actually, I don’t think that at all. I do believe parenting plays a major role in moving teens through ‘those years’. Easy for me to say this…my oldest has only just entered ‘those years’. But decisions we make as parents, ways in which we parent, consistent positive patterns of parenting all compound – surely – to create a safe(r) passage through adolecence…I hope! One example of this was when I was speaking to this father around the campfire and he said he only let his 14 y/o stay out all night twice a week. I shared that my daughter was only just allowed to go to the shops with friends for an hour on a Thursday night and even then only a few times a term! But it’s too late for my friend I think. The freedom has been given, now it would be more than hard to take it back. His son has parked his brain somewhere and is running with a pretty rough crowd.
The other conversation that I had this past month was with a young guy I had in my youth group when I was a Pastor at Whitford – Aaron Tait. This guy comes from a classic “anything is possible” type family. His Dad makes pretty much everything he touches turn to gold. He talks like something between your nicest next door neighbour and an Amway seller, he is a good guy.
Aaron is an inspiring leader and social entrepreneur. Deployed to Iraq on a United Nations mission as an 18-year-old, the leader of a secondary school for vulnerable children in a Tanzanian slum at 23, and more recently the developer of a HIV orphanage and micro-finance project in rural Kenya, his leadership of his new venture – Spark* is built on a first hand understanding of the frontline realities of humanitarian work. Aaron matches this experience with a Masters of Strategy and Policy, and a Masters of Development with Distinction from the University of Cambridge, as well as a couple of degrees he completed whist still in the Navy. To sit and hear him and his wife Kaitlin share their story this past Wednesday night at our church was simple inspiring. But as much as it was inspiring, I had to ask in relation to this post, “was this the ‘doing’ of his parents? Was it just a lucky series of events?” (he just got a good commander in the Navy who encouraged further study, he didn’t get shot, he met a great wife, he was moved by compassion on a trip to Africa to start a school etc) – I suggest not! Was it something he was born with, just a positive, ‘can do’ personality…the same as his Dad’s! So what do you think? Environment or genetic? Both?
How does one kid leave home at 17, knowingly or unknowingly to change the world, and another (I know he is only 14 and could yet become a world changer!) ends up doing time in Rangeview Detention Centre and continues to tag everything he can touch and is generally looking like heading into an ugly life of interactions with the wrong side of the law?
Dads – Fathers Day this weekend – may you be challenged not only by the question – “What do you want as a gift” (for me – a new drill!) but also by the question, “How will you raise, challenge, nurture and love the gift you have been given in the child(ren) you have”?
I am not saying every child has to end up like my friend Aaron and create brilliant organisations like Spark* and change the world…but, heck, the world could use a few more like him!