July 19, 2017
I am currently on vacation. In my absence, I will be re-posting popular blog posts from the past. This blog is now in it’s fifth year! The posts I’ll be sharing with you while I am away come from my first year of writing daily on the From The Deacon’s Desk site.
The following post comes from a talk I gave on the challenges of living in the modern, secular world, with emphasis on keeping an open line of communication and doing all things with love.
I recently had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents and students on the topic of “Words of Advice to Parents and Their Children.” If I were wise, you might call them words of wisdom. I share those thoughts here.
- “It takes a village to raise a child” is not just a cute phrase.
We often use this phrase to emphasize the importance of the school and the parents working together to educate our children. While it is an old-fashioned statement, it was never truer than it is today. The world our children are growing up in is a complex, fast-paced, and somewhat hedonistic one.
Parents can’t send us their children thinking, “It’s a Catholic school; I hope they will instill the moral values our kids will need in life.”
The school can’t say, “We’re only here to teach Math and Science.”
The parents, who are the primary educators of their children, need to raise their children to have a solid moral foundation. We, the school, have the responsibility to support and enhance the work the parents have done.
- Confront conflict with direct, open, and honest communication
No one likes conflict. It makes us feel uncomfortable. It can be painful at times. There is only one way to resolve conflict effectively, and that is with direct, open, and honest communication. It must be face-to-face communication with the person with whom you are in conflict.
Tom has a problem with the way his English teacher has graded his paper. He shares his frustration at lunch with five of his friends. One of the friends tells his girlfriend about it when he goes to Math class. The Math teacher overhears. She feels uncomfortable going directly to Tom’s English teacher, so she comes to me, the principal.
So there we sit – a principal and a Math teacher discussing a problem between Tom and his English teacher. Pretty ineffective, don’t you think?
- Be genuine – always present who you really are
Always be sincere and genuine. When you are being insincere, you’re not fooling anyone. People see right through it and resent the fact that you don’t respect them enough to let them see who you really are. If you are genuine and they don’t like you, at least you were honest.
Two months after I was hired as principal, two parents came into my office. They said the kids were saying I was quiet and that it was difficult to get to know me. They said, “You need to try being silly. Do something crazy!” They suggested, “Put on a red nose and run through the cafeteria at lunch time. Have some fun!”
That might very well have worked for someone else. It would have failed miserably for me because it was not (and is not) who I am. It wouldn’t have been from the heart. The kids would have known that it was an act and it wouldn’t have accomplished anything except to make me look like a clown.
- Don’t allow technology to take over your life
I see one student texting another student who is eight feet away. I read an angry, hurtful e-mail that was sent from one adult to another. Words were used that would never have been used in a face-to-face conversation. They are words that the sender can never take back.
Students have difficulty with written communication because they speak in techno-language that only recognizes 160 characters at a time. Instant messages, texts, and tweets have replaced phone calls, drop by visits, and casual conversation.
The ability to put things into our own words is a dying art, because at the touch of a button the words of many others are right there on our screen, waiting to be cut and pasted.
Meanwhile, the attention span of the average human being is getting shorter and shorter. Nothing is fast enough. I’m a busy guy – I can’t be waiting ten seconds to download that video on my iPhone! I need the YouTube clip of the yodeling cat right now!
- Have a conversation at home: What is success?
Students are under a lot of stress – just ask our school nurse. Much of the stress comes from a student’s perceived need to be successful or to meet someone’s expectations of them, regardless of how realistic those expectations might be.
Is this student playing a sport so that his father can re-live his high school experiences? Isn’t the ‘B’ earned through the hard work of this student worthy of praise? Could a student who is allowed to explore the arts reveal a hidden passion that will last his entire life?
More than a few students are carrying the burden of someone else’s expectations. What does God call your child to be?
I challenge parents and their children to have a conversation at home that begins with the parent asking the child, “What is your definition of success?”
- Tell your family you love them every day – and show them, too!
When you get up in the morning, tell everyone in your family that you love them. Tell them at the end of every phone call, text, or e-mail. If they are in front of you when you tell them, give them a hug, too. (That includes fathers hugging their sons.) Tell them at night before bed. Show them that you love them, too. Then get up the next day and do it all over again. There is no such thing as too much. You will never hear a child say, “I’m tired of hearing my parents tell me they love me.”
Love is a decision. Make that decision every day.
- Have a servant’s heart (get over yourself)
Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. He allowed Himself to be crucified so that we might gain eternal life. He could not be sending a clearer message. We are called to serve. To do that effectively, we need to get over ourselves.
What would our world look like if we determined our every action by asking the question, “How will what I’m about to do benefit others?”
- Keep Christ at the center of all you do
We are challenged by a world that is becoming more and more secular all the time. People are praying less and worshiping less. Relativism is gaining ground.
We live in this world, but does not need to be of this world. Maintaining our vision has never been more critical, and it has never been more challenging. Our vigilance is needed.
My hopes and prayers will be with you always. May God bless you!