Over the last week, I attended concerts for two of my children. Both are in band, one is also in chorus. In an auditorium packed with proud parents, I doubt that I was alone in marveling at how these 12 and 14 year olds had become such accomplished musicians. They had surpassed my own musicality years ago.
Similarly as I watch all three of my children on the soccer pitch, I must acknowledge that they shortly will become more skilled at their sports than I ever was at mine. Likewise, as I see their school work and report cards, I envision an academic future and corresponding college and career opportunities that are more promising than my own.
Even reflecting on the things and experiences they collected or the places they’ve been, there is little doubt that their lives are, on many levels, better than my own.
This, of course, is satisfying on many levels. After all, one of our most treasured hopes for our children is that they will do better than we did.
Yet looking beyond the cozy and protected confines of our community, it is without doubt that the world they will inherit is far more troubling than what our parents left us.
My first book, published over ten years ago, was titled, Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for a Better World. It looked at over thirty issues that we needed to address if we wanted to keep our generational promise. By my count, over two-thirds of these issues have gotten worse over the last decade.
To compound things, I didn’t have the foresight to include certain issues that plague us today. Such as the undermining of democracy, our growing mental health crisis, and the frightening possibility that our daughters will have fewer rights than their grandmothers did.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around what we can and should do in light of all this. Of course, we should continue to provide our children with opportunities we didn’t have. And when possible do whatever we can to extend those opportunities to children less fortunate.
But what else?
Some friends, whose children are graduating, have told me about conversations where they counsel their children to consider factors previously unthinkable when deciding where to live.
Are there states where you’ll have fewer rights than others?
Are there cities that are at increasing risk of extreme climate events, like flooding, droughts or tornados?
Are there communities where schools will ban books or not protect each other when (not if) there is another pandemic?
If these conversations are any indication, the promise noted above is on the verge of being irrevocably broken.
Contrary to what this post may suggest, I consider myself a relatively optimistic person. But I’d feel better if we all, myself included, spent a little more time not just preparing our children for the world but preparing the world for our children.