Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Choose your own destiny or leave it to someone else

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and bones.
- Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

Many people will despise such thinking. They prefer to believe that their present circumstances are a direct result of factors over which they had little or no control.

Or they are the way they are because that's how their parents taught them. Or how they became because of how their parents didn't teach them enough or properly.

Anything to avoid taking responsibility for their own lives. How many members of broken marriages do you know where one mate takes full responsibility for the tragedy that their lives became? The odd one in country music recordings maybe.

Are we all that bad? Do we all blame others for everything? Do none of us take responsibility for building our own lives to where we are today?

Don't answer those questions above. They are just to make you think.

The problem is that we don't teach children, adolescents and young adults what they need to do to build healthy lives themselves. Some parents do, but look around you to see the number of adults you know who blame others for the way their lives are today.

Apparently we don't even know what a healthy life is. There are certainly lots of parents who teach their kids that they should enter a profession or occupation where they will make lots of money. Yet I can't think of even one rich person with whom I would want to change position.

What do we teach our children when we buy prepared foods to eat on the run, instead of gathering together as a family for at least a few full meals each week? We teach kids that preparing your own meals is a lowly way to spend your time. Yet a much smaller percentage of children in families where one or more people prepare the full meal (from scratch) and everyone eats together are obese than in the average family.

We less conspicuously teach children that having power over others is good. Being the boss is better than being a follower. Sadly, we don't teach children how to choose which leaders to follow, so they often choose bad leaders to follow. And we don't teach good habits of responsible leaders for those who will hold power later.

We teach those who become leaders how to gain power, but not how to take responsibility for that power to benefit the followers (and voters) they represent. A selfish leader uses his power to better his own circumstances, while a good leader uses his to better the lives of those he represents.

Look at the leaders we idolize, the ones we use as role models. For many, they choose movie stars with thoroughly dysfunctional and (often secretly) unhappy lives. Or business leaders. Do we really want more of our children to become like Donald Trump?

We can't expect teachers to take responsibility for molding the lives of their young charges if we as parents teach them differently, whether by intention or not. Teachers don't have the responsibility or the authority to teach such matters anyway.

We as adult representatives of our respective communities need to make it clear to those we know who we should be using as role models for teaching our children.

Do we want to be wealthy enough to buy all the neat stuff we see on television? Or do we want to lead satisfying and fruitful lives? We need to choose because the two don't dwell within the same body.

Think about who you most respect. Then tell someone else.

Teach children how to craft their own destiny following the example of the person you most respect.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show the difference.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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