By Terri White
A few years ago, a friend visited an African orphanage. After touring the rooms where rambunctious children greeted her, she entered the nursery. Dead silence assaulted her. Shocked, she turned to her guide and asked, “Why is it so quiet?”
The guide responded sadly, “Before we rescued them, they cried and cried, but nobody came to tend them. They learned that no one is coming.” No one is coming. No. One. Is. Coming.
In modern America, did our mothers leave us in a dark room to cry because the Dr. Spocks of the world told them that picking up a crying infant would spoil them? No. One. Is. Coming.
Are neglectful parents not providing regular meals or leaving small children alone to fend for themselves? No. One. Is. Coming.
A four-year-old boy pulls out a puzzle, dumps out the pieces, and proceeds to fit the pieces back in. Inexperienced, he doesn’t attempt to match the shapes or colors. As mom observes him, she becomes increasingly frustrated with his lack of success, so she intervenes by guiding a piece into place. What is mom teaching her son? That when he struggles, he should find someone to do the task for him.
Do teachers or parents encourage discussion or do they suppress alternative views on controversial topics? Because the teenage years spawn the ability to reason, they will question everything. What will young people learn if they cannot ask questions? To whom will they take those questions if the adults in their lives fail to allow them to question without condemnation and judgement?
If parents, filled with bitterness and hate, openly spew racial slurs around the children, those seeds of bitterness are planted and watered during their entire upbringing. They, in turn, will repeat the pattern as adults.
What happens to a child’s development when he has been conditioned from infancy that no one is coming to care for his needs? What kind of adults will children become when they are not permitted to struggle as they are learning new skills? Will a teen find a positive outlet for the questions churning in his mind or just rebel instead? Will children, fed on a diet of hate and bitterness, be able to break the pattern? Are we a curse or a blessing to our children?
Conversely, did your mother bond skin-to-skin with you as an infant, thus nurturing a secure and emotionally healthy human being? Someone. Is. There.
Did your parents provide a life of reading, discussing, laughter, and play? A life where you felt safe to be inquisitive, safe to be yourself? Someone. Is. There.
Have you modeled love and respect for all people to your children? Then you have planted and nurtured those seeds into the next generation where kindness, not hate, and respect, not bitterness, will flourish in society.
Everyone has been conditioned from birth. Our conditioning determines who we become as adults. It determines what kind of society we build and maintain. It determines the future of humanity. It’s that serious.
Nevertheless, we adults cannot shake our fingers at our parents and condemn them for their faults. We need to take a long look in the mirror and ask ourselves, “What am I going to do about it?”
Will we do the hard work of rooting out the bitterness, the fear, the insecurities, the anxieties? Or will we play the victim and blame Mom and Dad for their lack? Although no one parents perfectly, there is always hope. To root out whatever is keeping us from living in harmony with others, we must start by being honest with ourselves.
As a nation and as individuals, we need a strong dose of honesty about who we are and who we want to be. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.