Parents and educators, youth workers and anyone dealing with young people, would be well aware of the importance of setting clear boundaries of behaviour, whether it is in language, in expressing one’s feelings, in relationships with other people, or in actions and re-actions..
I have certainly grown up with very clear lines in the sand that could not be crossed! And, if crossed, on purpose or by accident, consequences were imposed.
This manner of living was understood and accepted at all levels – not just in the education and training of the young.
And now, as it is the case of so many ordinary citizens, I find it difficult to believe and accept the attitude of complete freedom to say and do whatever one likes, often disregarding common-sense expectations. This happens on the sporting field (see ball-tampering, or offensive language), in industry (banking scandals), in politics (various examples of disloyalty), in the public arena (lack of respect for traditions), in relationships at all levels…
The immediate response is often to do nothing about all this, to avoid repercussions and possible retaliation. It’s understandable that there are situations where we can do little or nothing. At the same time, we can underestimate “the power of one” – there have been so many examples of this power. However, the home and the school, parents and educators, cannot take the position of doing nothing. There are expressions of language and of behaviour that must not be tolerated from children and young people, even when they have seen or have lived with bad examples. It is often said that when good people do nothing, evil thrives.
A Salesian education emphasizes gentleness, compassion and forgiveness – the qualities of the heart. But all this does not mean weakness, and the “anything-goes” attitude. Loving kindness goes hand in glove with respect, a desire to cooperate, a willingness to obey, the joy of sharing, the ambition to please, a preparedness to be humble and to sacrifice, the intent to put the other person first.
Some time ago I came across the following quote, which contains an important lesson for all of us: “During the time of Hitler in Germany, the Nazis came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Next they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics;,and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Catholic. Finally they came for me – and by that time there was no one left to speak up for anyone!”
– Martin Niemoller – Lutheran Pastor
Our times require people of courage and conviction to stand up and defend their values and traditions. I hope none of us will be found wanting!
Fr Frank Bertagnolli SDB