3 March 2010

The Real Problem

"My name is Dave. I generally function under the persona of 'Father Dave'. That's because I am a priest -an Anglican priest. Apart from being a priest I am also a boxer and all-round martial arts master. I am also a 'youth worker' of sorts.
In some places in the world I would be granted an enormous amount of respect because I am a priest. In this community, I find I receive more respect that I deserve on account of my reputation for hitting people. I personally believe that the only role in that list that really demands respect is the one of 'Youth Worker'
Working with young people is hard. I used to be a young person. I was a hard young person to work with. I was a difficult student at school. I went on to be an argumentative University student and then a troublesome seminary student. I've left behind me a whole string of academic institutions that have been somewhat glad to see the back of me.
Now I've been working with hard and difficult young people in Dulwich Hill for the last twelve years (which may be God's way of paying me back). Some of the young people I've worked with have really got their lives together and gone on to bigger and better things. Quite a number of them have died - mainly from overdoses but also from car accidents (often in stolen cars) and from suicide. Others I'm still working with. They're just not quite as young as they used to be.
People ask me all the time 'Dave, what do you think is the biggest problem facing young people today'. ...
Personally I think the biggest problem I see with our young people is that most of them don't feel themselves to be a part of anything that is bigger than themselves.
Most young people I meet have tragically small horizons, very little ambition, and hence live in very tiny worlds. When I ask teenagers about what they would really like to do with their lives if they could do anything at all, most others speak in terms of getting something, whether that something be a horse or a car or a girl or just 'a lot of money'.
No one I speak to says 'If I could do anything I wanted I'd find a cure for cancer' or 'I'd negotiate a peace deal in the Middle East'. And this reflects, I believe, the fact that most young people I know have very narrow horizons. Indeed, most young persons I know seem to live in worlds that are not much bigger than themselves.
One of the most depressing groups of young people I've encountered in the past few years has been at my oldest daughter's school. She attends a different government run selective high school. I won't say which one. NOT THIS ONE! When she fist started school there they asked her whole class 'what did they want to be when they finished school?', and almost every other person there, apart from her, said 'a lawyer'.
There was a time when we used to speak of the 'idealism of youth'. What's happened to that? When did youthful idealism get replaced by this 'I want to make a lot of money' mentality? Why do people who should know better want to make a 'lot of money'? Is it because you think you need a lot of money in order to survive? You don't! Is it because you think 'if I have a lot of money I will be really important and people will look up to me?' GET A LIFE!
Friends, I do not think that there is any greater tragedy in this community than a highly trained intelligent young person who has all the gifts and abilities necessary to really make a difference in this society, but who has no idea where to direct those gifts and abilities. It's like having a powerful loaded weapon and not caring where it's aiming when it goes off.
This is the tragedy: that most of our young people, I fear, drug-addicted and not drug-addicted, well educated as well as less well educated, winners as well as losers, live a life wherein 'my life is basically about me'. That's a tragedy."
David B. Smith

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