Youth and fire

It is said that if the elders are not engaged with the youths, the youths will burn down the village. With the fire in the Columbia Gorge we have been given a vivid illustration of this effect.

Youth is a time when we experiment and make mistakes — do stupid things and learn from them. The current solution to the resulting actions is generally punishments of varying severity. These result in either a fear-inspired, self-protective inhibition or a resentful, angry feeling of victimization, neither of which is a healthy outcome.

Restorative justice offers an alternative where the youth must claim ownership for the results of his/her actions, looking at all the ways the action impacts the victims, themselves, their families and the community and can include an agreement on some form of reparation.

Both methods are after-the-fact attempts at setting things right, often cases of too little (or too much) too late.

Which brings us back to the premise of elders being engaged. Organizations like Boys to Men, the Rose Circle, Kids Unlimited, Cascadia Quest and others provide an opportunity for elders to mentor and be present for youth. Guiding their steps toward adulthood, offering them a chance to look at the choices they are making in life, elders are present in a youth’s life in a collaborative, non-judgmental way. Thus fires are lit within the youths in a healthy creative manner, leading to responsible, socially beneficial actions by the youths, and the village need not burn.

We adults are responsible for the choices offered to our youths. We need to decide if we are willing to step up to this challenge or to leave the mentoring of our youths to social media, YouTube and corporate advertisers.

Tony Henthorn