When I went to my child’s dance school holiday party tonight, I found my head and feet moving to the beat. I watched those dancers do their routines, and in my heart, I felt that I could still get out there and move to the groove, too.
But in my head, I realized that I am not 15 any more and this body has more than just highway miles on it now. My heart says I can still do a backbend; my head says, “Don’t even think about it, sister!”
Yes, a lot of years have passed since I did gymnastics routines in local talent shows. As I sat pondering that sad fact, I became rather melancholy as other changes came to mind — changes in this world we live in.
When I was a kid, schools were safe havens. I never once contemplated someone coming in with a gun. Oh, how I have grieved over those first graders who were so brutally snatched from this life last week! The loss of such innocence disturbs me greatly.
When I was in the first grade, Mrs. Cromer would let us go sit under the pine trees near the playground if we felt bad during class. Can you imagine modern schools letting two little six-year-old girls like me and my pal Sandy sit unsupervised outside?
In the second grade, we would beg Mrs. Steele to let us dust erasers on the playground. She’d pick two lucky kids to do the “chore.” Sometimes it was me, and I’d head outside with just another seven-year-old. There was no thought of kidnappers or child abusers or murderers lurking.
My hubster says the only way to make schools as safe as they need to be — in light of recent events — would be to construct them like maximum security prisons. Other folks agree. What a shame that we must contemplate making a school similar to a prison!
On the old paths, I once baked a tuna casserole and walked up the road to take it to some neighbors. I was maybe eight or nine. Recently, when my 14-year-old daughter walked up our street to visit her friend, I stood at the end of the driveway and watched until she was safely there.
Overprotective? I don’t think so. Do you know how many reports I’ve read of young girls who simply walked to catch the bus and were reported missing later? There are crazy people in this world.
Was it always so? I realize that sin has been a part of the human equation since the Garden of Eden, but has it always been this bad? There are arguments on both sides of this question.
For example, I’m reading a book right now called “The Man Who Moved a Mountain,” about the preacher who built the lovely stone churches along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here is a bit of his personal testimony:
“When I was not quite three, I got drunk. That’s the first thing I remember in my whole life … It was Christmas, the time when aunts and uncles gathered to celebrate with all the liquor they could hold.”
Now mind you, this was in 1893. That preacher, Bob Childress, who grew up near Fancy Gap, Va., told how liquor was so ingrained in the Blue Ridge Mountains back then that practically everyone drank to the point of intoxication, even little children.
He also told how killing was as normal as breathing and occurred as frequently as taking a bath in those days. Friends shot friends in drunken arguments, relatives stabbed relatives during domestic disputes, former lovers lay in wait to murder the one who “done them wrong.”
So, yes, people who lived a century ago weren’t necessarily pious pioneers such as Ma and Pa Ingalls on “Little House on the Prairie.” Domestic violence, murder, substance abuse and even child molestation are as old as Adam’s apple.
But why does it seem so much worse today? Is it that we have such an expanded media presence and these tragedies are thrown at us constantly from TVs, radios, and the Internet whereas news sources were few and far between back in the day? Maybe.
However, I believe that we do live in a darker world than we did when I was a child. I played in the woods all day in the summer, coming inside for meals and when it got dark. I rode my bike by myself down to Grandpa and Grandma Bray’s house as young as age seven. My schools were always wide open to visitors. I don’t even remember them having to register in the office back in the day.
My friends, I’m afraid that those of us over 40 have lived in an innocent age that will never come again. Perhaps the singer Jackson Browne was right when he sang:
“Remember when the days were long, and rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world, with mommy and daddy standin’ by
But ‘happily ever after’ fails, and we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales…
Offer up your best defense, but this is the end of the innocence.”
My thoughts are that the innocence has been gone since Adam and Eve but that darkness threatens more intensely as we race toward the end. Some blame easy access to guns, some blame the loss of public prayer in schools. I simply blame the false gods worshiped by our society: power, money, worldly entertainment, self-indulgence and many other idols.
But lest we grow discouraged and become governed by fear, let us remember that there is yet good in this world, a divine spark in each of us. Miracles still happen, Good Samaritans continue to work without fanfare and love remains the strongest force on earth.
‘Tis the season to think on such positive things. May we never forget the “good tidings of great joy” that the angel brought to the shepherds that first Christmas. It is that good news that can change the world and bring about the very thing the angels sang about: “on earth peace, good will toward men.”