I can remember piles and piles of freshly fallen leaves and raking them into huge piles, only to then run and jump in them and frolic in a way that only kids can do. I also remember my dad coming out and gently scolding me. After all, he asked me to rake them; he didn't ask me to then make a new mess out of the yard. But as I told him I was sorry, I also noted a small smile on his face.
Playing in the leaves is just one small example of how kids used to entertain themselves. Endless hours of baseball, football and basketball, depending on the season were ways we spent days on end when we had free time. And in the event of bad weather? No problem, there were card games, Monopoly, Scrabble and even tabletop puzzles that took hours and hours to put together.
Today, however, we have developed generation after generation of young people who can't entertain themselves; we must provide them with fancy electronic gadgets to strike their fancy. State-of-the-art voice and video technology boxes are given to kids even at early age and they become immediately hooked. Just look around the neighborhood and watch the kids who are glued to their personal cellphone, incapable of carrying on a good conversation but being a master of texting. And go by the local playgrounds and notice, with the exception of organized sports leagues for those kids, now a minority, who are encouraged to play athletics, they are routinely empty. The old pick-up football or baseball game is sadly a thing of the past.
So does it surprise you at the huge increase we have today in child obesity? Well, when young kids are turned into vegetables at an early age their physical characteristics show it. And when minds are filled with fantasy while replacing history, heritage, and spiritual things or importance, it becomes a bowl full of mush itself.
Now I'm not saying that kids shouldn't have experience with modern technology and learn how to master it. I think just the opposite but I think it needs to be tempered with those things which teach history, common sense and spiritual values as well. And teaching which inculcates those things into young people is primarily the duties of the parents. If you teach the children well while they are young, even if they go astray for awhile, they will find their way back.
So as we approach the time of year when we offer our thanks to God for the things that we have in the greatest place on earth and then shortly thereafter celebrate our Savior's birth, why not try something different? Why not give our kids gifts of lasting value that will help them find their place as good citizens in a free world that values individualism, our belief in God and the reasons that we were put on this earth in the first place. And the best thing you can do is give them your time: time to talk, explore and expand the imagination and just laugh together. It's called love, folks.
All the fancy toys, gadgets and other "stuff" will eventually be thrown away and forgotten. It's kind of like the little baby who crawls into the room full of presents, opens them all up and then spends his time playing with the wrappings and boxes; he's oblivious to the contents. The same applies in a broader sense to all of the fancy presents we work so hard to provide.
So keep it simple folks. Yes, give gifts that are fun and bring memories but put a heavy dose of your time and love with them. Love is the real important thing, for that's what kids need more than anything. A drive around town looking at Christmas lights, attending the Christmas pageant with the family and, of course, that wonderful Christmas feast with the whole family and special friends. Or maybe even take them with you if you volunteer to help the less fortunate among us. These are the things that really count and these are the things that turn young mischievous children into strong and sturdy good citizens later.
Think about it as we approach the Holidays. What you do and how you do it at this time of year makes a huge impression on a young child. Use it to make sure it is a good one.