Kids in our Community

Our friend Jody opened our Wednesday gathering this evening with a thought about how our NVFC community is passing on our values and belief structure to the kids in our community. Jody was doing an opening in our Healthy Children – Healthy Planet discussion course. The course curriculum is supplied by the Northwest Earth Institute (NEI). Jody, and my wife Debbie serve on the Social Concerns committee at North Valley. They brought the idea for the study group and are now leading us through this eight week course. The NEI “is recognized as a national leader in the development of innovative programs that empower individuals and organizations to protect the Earth” (from the NEI website).

I have thought quite a bit about that question, both during tonight’s discussion and now as I reflect on this at home. Some basic questions to ask the community are.

  1. What are the values we hold in common that we can agree are important to pass on to the children?
  2. What do we know to be effective ways of passing on values to children?
  3. Do we believe that our faith community should play a significant role in transferring values and raising our children?
  4. Are we willing as parents and community members to live in relationships of openness and accountability with one another so that it is truly possible that the “entire village” can raise the children?

Jody’s opening was for a lesson on advertising. We read a number of article in the study guide about advertising, particularly that which targets our children. It is amazing and disturbing to realize the extent to which advertising is shaped and delivered to influence children in our culture to be consumers. An excerpt of Born to Buy by Juliet Schor was especially compelling. Schor states, “Marketers convey the view that wealth and aspiration to wealth are cool. Material excess, having lots of money, career advancement, and a lifestyle to go with it are all highly valued in the marketing world’s definition of what’s hot and what’s not. Living modestly means living like a loser (I added the italics for emphasis).”

So, I am a loser, eh? I suppose that Jesus would be considered a big time loser by the marketers, as well. One important passage to consider is Matthew 6: 19-34, imported here from the Bible Gateway in the Message version:

19-21“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. 22-23“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

24“You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.

25-26“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

27-29“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

30-33“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

34“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

There are other passages in which the lifestyle of Jesus and his words indicate that he would probably be identified as a loser by the marketers of our world. So be it. A brief examination of the history and practice of Friends reminds us that living modestly (or simply or plainly) is a commitment that is quite appropriate and needful in this life, both as a testimony to those around us and in order to place higher value on the inner life and the voice of Christ.

I am learning to pay attention to my actions as a parent and community member and to reflect on how those actions affect others as I participate in this discussion series. I am reminded of that old Garcia and Hunter tune, Crazy Fingers. (There is a couplet in the song which goes:

Who can stop what must arrive now?
Something new is waiting to be born

If you are interested you can download free and legal mp3 files of live Grateful Dead music at their live site and listen to Crazy Fingers.

I want to be open to something new to be born in my life, my families life and my communities life. We will be examining the four questions I posted earlier in our meeting. Dear Lord, help us to listen and to see.

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