One of the great tells of a preschooler's life is to ask what they want to be when they grow up. It might be something they just saw, something they watch on TV (probably over and over and over again), or whatever random thing pops into their head. It may be a genuine profession, or it might be an inanimate object. Whatever it is, it will be something with which they have had contact.
It gets a little more serious as we grow, but I would suggest that it is impossible to aspire to something we do not see or understand. It is here that I think we can see some faults in our society. Want to know why so many young people want to be professional athletes, musicians, YouTube influencers or gamers? Because for some that is nearly all they see. The world of working with one's hands to build something is a mystery. The world of working on a project that might require weeks, months, or years of planning and execution is beyond their imagination.
To be fair, most of us have comparatively little idea of the adult world while we are still in high school. Most will either enter a trade or continue education and be exposed to new thoughts and possibilities. However, in my own little world, I find that those who have been exposed to different people, places and possibilities have fewer challenges to overcome when "adult" life begins. This also holds true for those who are challenged with "helicopter" or "bulldozer" parents. So many are not exposed to work, consequences or responsibility. They have never seen it, and therefore have difficulty "being it."
I am not suggesting that all is lost, or that we are in any more trouble now than we have always been. I am suggesting that the results that we get are due to our decisions. I have never understood why any older generation complains about a younger one, since it is obvious that the older generation produced it. One of the reasons I believe generations are so different in the United States is that we tend to follow trends, economics, fads and technology (as in, if we can do it, we should do it). An alternative might be to accept and understand change, but not let that change be the arbiter of our morals.
Just think of the trouble loving our neighbors would have saved us as human beings. What if we made decisions based on "love your neighbor as yourself" rather than economics? How would that have affected slavery, labor, war or politics? What if we took our parenting lessons from Proverbs 1-9 (for example) rather than the latest psychological theory or trendy book?
When we apply this to our spiritual lives, it lays a heavy responsibility on us all. If a child cannot see faithfulness, it will be difficult for them to be it. If our first pursuits are worldly rather than spiritual because we are ignoring, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be yours as well" (Mt. 6:33), it will be hard for our children to do otherwise. If children do not see generosity, patience or kindness they will not even be able to imagine it.
There are those in history who have recorded good examples for us. Sulpitius Severus, who lived around the turn of the fifth century, and called "friend" by Jerome (Bible translator), wrote this in his introduction to his, "Life of St. Martin."
"For in truth, those who estimate human life only by present actions, have consigned their hopes to fables, and their souls to the tomb. In fact, they gave themselves up to be perpetuated simply in the memory of mortals, whereas it is the duty of man rather to seek after eternal life than an eternal memorial, and that, not by writing, or fighting, or philosophizing, but by living a pious, holy, and religious life. This erroneous conduct of mankind, being enshrined in literature, has prevailed to such an extent that it has found many who have (imitated) either vain philosophy or the foolish excellence which has been celebrated. For this reason ... I (will) write the life of a most holy man, which shall serve as an example to others." (Life of St. Martin, Ch. 1).
I am thankful for those whose holy lives have been preserved for us. Show these good examples to all we can. Seek the good. Feed the spirit.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at email@example.com.