“What Has Happened To US? Could it be that the answers we seek are within the walls of our own homes?” By Michele E. Mathews

“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow. Try to remember the kind of September when you were a tender and callow fellow. Try to remember and if you remember… then follow.”

~Tom Jones lyrics for his hit single, “Try to Remember”

What has happened to us?

I think we all woke up a little different this morning due to the shootings that took place in a high school in Florida. Those children could have been mine…or yours. That thought brings us all to our knees with a myriad of emotions. Horror. Gratefulness that our own families are safe. Heartbreak for others. Fearful of tomorrow. Bewilderment at one human beings mental state and the possibilities of its evil manifestations. Shame? Perhaps guilt? Anger.

I’m not here to debate gun control or even the mental health issues. That conversation is for those who are exponentially more qualified than myself. (Although I certainly have my opinions). Instead, I wanted to address the mental state of our country.

I am an avid observer of well… everything. I love to people-watch in airports, wondering what their story is and where they are from. People are complex beings, each a product of not only their DNA but their social and economic influences as well. No two humans are alike. That fascinates me.

So as I try to digest the horror of yesterday, seeking answers as we all are, trying desperately to assign blame, to make sense of it all…I am left only with an emptiness, a sorrow so deep that it is hard to comprehend.

The news anchors are spouting spin and opinions like robots regurgitating polarizing agendas. Hey, I get it. Now a days, EVERYONE has an agenda. We’ve all become accustomed to 24/7 opinions being shouted back at us every evening.

But there’s something more that I’m feeling…a longing…a desire. And then it hit me.

I want to go home.

I’ve grown weary of playing in today’s world. The vitriol among us is so deep it has made people afraid to speak. The constant bickering. The unethical, backroom dealings of our government whom I used to look upon with admiration and reverence, gone. Hypocrisy is part of the everyday game. No one plays fair anymore. Teachers, who no longer educate our children in pride and respect, instead leaving them with nothing to actually believe in. Lies. Deceit around every corner. We still hate one another for the color of our skin, which is insane. Religious intolerances run rampant creating disturbing desires to destroy our way of life. Nuclear weapons aimed at us from across the globe…

It’s all one big chaotic, fist fight. And I don’t want to play anymore.

I want to go home. 

I want to take my children and grandchildren back to a time where I remember things much differently from the world we live in today. While I’m not naive enough to have forgotten our past differences and obstacles that we as a people had to overcome, I still want to go home if for nothing more than the sheer simplicity of the past.

“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow.”

My spirit is thirsty for a time where fireflies and sand castles were the norm. When we put our hands over our hearts and recited “The Pledge of Allegiance” and were proud to be Americans. Where children squealed with delight on swing sets. Where neighbors baked apple pies for one another. Where kids rode their bicycles without safety gear, stayed out past dark playing kickball in the streets and mothers felt confident letting them play unsupervised. Where picnics were a weekly occurrence, camping in tents was awesome, catching crickets in jars was cool and Thanksgiving at Grandma’s was a cherished event. Where the sound of laughter around the dinner table was an everyday occurrence. Grades mattered. Respect for elders and one another’s opinions, mattered. Kindness and politeness, mattered. God mattered.

I want to go home.

As I write this I am once again saddened. I remember a world that my grandchildren could never in a million years fathom existed. Their world is full of fear. These children can’t play hopscotch on the sidewalk because a stranger might kidnap them. They can’t build forts and street ramps for their bikes because they’re too busy with organized sports and endless hours homework at the end of the day. There is no such thing as “free time” in their world. Everything is scheduled from sun up to sun down.

And if by chance they do have a half hour where there isn’t something pre-booked? They race for their game systems, their phones, their social media websites. This is their world. Not catching fireflies, skinning their knees on the street playing pitch and catch.. no they live in a virtual world. And in this world, their identities are manufactured, stoked and blasted out for all to see…all fake. And we start them early, giving them iPads to play with as toddlers so we don’t have to. Nothing in their world is real. You can’t touch twitter or Instagram. Watching a screen for hours on end is never going to be a substitute for the feeling of walking barefoot in the cool sand and playing frisbee on the beach.

And yet, knowing this, we as a society are genuinely surprised that some of our youth are experiencing severe stress and mental health issues?

There are things that are most impressive about this generation to be sure.  They are bright, capable, academics, ambidextrous with their hands due to game systems and computer geniuses. I also find this generation of children incredibly tolerant and accepting. Yet, I am still sad for them. They don’t even know to miss a life of simplicity. Or the smell of the rain. Or freshly baked apple pie. Most of them don’t notice because they haven’t been raised to notice. Everyone is too busy. Busy little ants preparing for winter…taking care of their own needs to even consider the needs of others…on their own time schedules. And as they rush hurriedly through their days…the real essence of being truly alive passes them by.

How does one describe the sheer joy of giving? The peace of being in a relationship with God? The benefits of being quiet and still? The smell of freshly mowed grass? 

So as I look to the horror of yesterday and listen to all sides vehemently clamor to voice their strong opinions on policies… I have a better solution:

Go home.

I don’t think our biggest problems in this country are rooted in government policies. I think our biggest problems are that we’ve forgotten how to be simple, decent people. We’ve forgotten how to love our neighbors. Put others before ourselves. To give back unselfishly. To get on the floor and play with our children. To shut down the machines and talk to one another. To be involved. To have dinner every night together and discuss our day. To stop signing up for every club and organization so that our youth are stressed to the max. To help our children feel successful by setting realistic goals… not every child is slated for college.

Kids need to feel their worth because they are special just being themselves…not because of some kind of continuous, societal competition whereby only the top few percent excel. This kind of personal, self-esteem and foundation is mostly established from the family.

So, as I look back to the heartbreak of yesterday and listen to all sides vehemently clamor to voice their strong opinions on policies that will “fix this problem” I say, “Absolutely, have that conversation. Gun control and mental illness are an issue for this country”.

But when we have these important debates, I think it’s even more important to ask, “WHY are we witnessing an up-tick in occurrence with these outbreaks of raw violence and divisiveness in our nation?”

Are guns and/or mental illness the problem or the symptom?

Because if it becomes agreed upon that these issues are symptoms of a deeply troubled nation that needs to re-examine it’s foundation, then I think I may have the solution:

Go home. The children need you.

As always God bless and be kind. #Kindness matters.

Michele E. Mathews

PS~ I pray for the families of this tragic event and sincerely hope we can come together as a nation to solve these issues. Stay in faith. His grace will carry you through this sorrow-filled storm…

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