"Children reflect family values very well. Of more than 127 letters (note: 5 from the local newspaper were copied on the reverse side) I found only 8 that did not have great lists of wants; not one word for other needs and desires. Where are family values? One child only wanted to see Daddy once in a while - how very sad. What can we expect from tomorrow's citizens and leaders? What values & love?? We are failing our children every day."
Dear Unsigned Letter Writer,
Thank you for your recent letter. It is the policy of this pastor to immediately disregard any communication which arrives at my office without attribution. However, I want to take this moment to reflect on your letter, since moral values appear to be a matter of some import to you.
One of the most essential moral values a parent can pass on to their child is the courage to stand for their convictions. My spouse and I have worked very hard to teach our girls that they, and no one else, are responsible for their own behavior, actions, and beliefs. We are teaching our children that anger, fear, anxiety, disappointment, and a host of other emotions are no excuse for poor behavior, which includes the subtle arts of tattling, scapegoating, and passive-aggressive behavior. When one of our daughters comes to us complaining about something her sister has done, the first question we ask is, "Did you tell her you didn't like this?" If she has not, the conversation is over until a direct communication has been made about the behavior in question. Our local elementary school follows a very similar policy when it comes to dealing with student conflict.
You, on the other hand, have chosen to complain to me about local children and families, without providing your name, the specific cause for your concern beyond a local newspaper article, and any sense of understanding whatsoever that the context of the children in question is certainly not described in full by 50 words in the local paper. What an interesting course of action you've chosen! You could have decided to introduce yourself to a family on your block in the hopes of making an intergenerational connection and helping a parent in need. You could have volunteered at your local school or after-school program and sought to make a difference by spending time with the children about whom you are so deeply concerned and imparting your values to them. You could have approached a local social service agency, or a school counselor, to offer your services as a mentor to a child in need (possibly the one who wanted to spend more time with Daddy?). Instead, you sent an unsigned letter to a local pastor so you could dump your worries without doing anything constructive or helpful. This course of action has two added benefits: it allows you to maintain a sense of personal superiority for possessing the moral values you believe these children lack, but it doesn't require work on your part or any sense of personal responsibility beyond identifying the problem.
Every one of the kids who wrote these letters has a unique story and a unique family setting that neither you nor I knows in full, Unsigned Letter Writer. Making value judgments about an entire generation based on the Christmas letters of children ranging from ages 4 to 8 is simply not justified, warranted, or appreciated. Doing so in an unsigned letter only guarantees your letter gets thrown in the trash with the rest of the garbage. Personally, I know a lot of the parents raising the next generation. I am one myself, after all. The ones I know well are a lot like me: flawed, but hopeful, and determined to raise children that will be better than we were. Our parents were like that. So were our grandparents. I'll bet your generation, and its parents, and grandparents, were a lot like that, too.
So, next time you get the urge to drop me a letter, do me a favor: sign it. Better yet, call the church office and make an appointment. I'd love to listen to what worries you. I'll do my best to understand what frightens you. I might ask you some questions that make you think differently about these things. I might tell you some stories that make you think better of the world around you. I can guarantee you this: I'll think a whole lot better about your moral values when they come with a name and a face, and the courage to tell me why they matter.
Yours in Christ,