Terrible things are happening in this country every day. Homeless people addicted to heroin and other opiates are dying on city streets. Crazed children are murdering other children in public schools. Unhinged individuals are committing mass murder in hotels, places of worship and other public spaces. Women and children are bought and sold in the growing underworld of human sex trafficking. Thousands of women are killing their own babies. America is losing its soul from the inside out.

It wasn’t always like this

I think back on the idyllic childhood most of us were fortunate to be born into. In my parents’ generation, God and family were top priorities. This resulted in love, charity and personal responsibility as the progeny of our existence. Rural communities like the one I grew up in were safe places to live and raise families. Everyone knew their neighbors and offered a helping hand when needed. 

A generation that

grew up outside 

In my case, growing up on a working family farm provided an opportunity for my parents to teach us the value of hard work. When farm chores were done, we played outside. We ran, we jumped and we climbed all day long. We rode our bicycles without helmets. At lunchtime, we came home briefly to eat a peanut butter or bologna sandwich on plain white bread. My mom cooked the dinner that we ate together as a family around a large table every night of the week. On Sundays after church, my dad organized his 13 children into two equally matched but opposing teams to play either basketball, baseball or football. All of this family time provided a forum for parents to teach and for children to learn important values.

It was a different time

Most people went to church. Fathers and mothers were responsible to each other, their families and their communities. Most mothers worked full time and then some inside the home. The family unit was strong. Teenagers had summer jobs and learned to save money. When my generation graduated from high school, those of us not going on to college had job-ready skills. Most employers in our community were willing to provide on-the-job training so that we could become mechanics, welders, secretaries, tellers, plumbers, sales clerks and home builders. Colleges and universities were places of higher learning where young people were taught how to think, not what to think.

People visited each

other face to face

Instead of keeping in touch on social media platforms or through text messages, neighbors, friends and relatives came to visit, face to face. Folks dropped by to have a cup of coffee and catch up on the latest news. On rare occasions, I remember my dad getting into lively political debates with our guests. These conversations were always sincere, civil and respectful. It never mattered to my parents which candidate you supported in the last Presidential election. What mattered was people. What mattered was love and community.

‘All the lonely people. Where do they all come from? All the lonely people. Where do they all belong?’ 

Today there is a generation of children growing up lonely because their parents are not in the game. For some of these children, their only connection to the world is through an internet technology device. They’re not involved with a youth group at their local church. They’re not volunteering at a local food bank through a girl or boy scout program. They’re not on a sports team learning about teamwork and good sportsmanship or members of a French or German Club at their local high school. They’re not singing in a choir or playing an instrument in the school band. They’re not rehearsing for a school play or working a summer job to save money for college. They’re not participating in family chores and are barely able to clean their own room. 

Yes, there is a generation filled with lonely young people who have an iPhone instead of a best friend. They see parties on social media platforms they didn’t get invited to. They see glamour shots of high school beauty queens because yes, there’s an app to remove blemishes and enhance the figure. They see perfection all around them but not in themselves. For whatever reason, they’re not accepting encouragement from their parents, teachers or other potential mentors. They’ve dropped through the cracks and now they’ve checked out. Some of them suffer from depression, anxiety, or mental illness. Some of these children are time bombs ready to explode. And some of them do.

In our American culture today, we are reaping the crops of destruction from seeds sown by a generation of parents that have lost its commitment to God, family and community. The result is a nation without a moral compass. Personal responsibility and service above self has been replaced with government hand-outs and “what’s in it for me?”  

I am not giving up on America. Political leaders must stop politicizing tragedy in exchange for votes. None of this is about guns or gun rights. It’s about love and the lack of it in America today. We can all be the change we want to see in our homes, in our communities and in our country. But it starts with each of us. We broke it and now we must fix it.

Liz Pike is a retired Washington State Representative who served three terms, from 2012 to 2018. Today she operates Shangri-La Farm, a small-scale organic farm in Fern Prairie with her husband Neil. She also teaches oil painting classes. Her work is featured in local galleries and at several outdoor summer art festivals.  She can be reached at 360-281-8720 or pikeadvertising@comcast.net. 

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