I love NPR. Every day, no matter when or how much I’m able to listen, I get a surprise. Like this story on Paul Thorn, a long-time favorite and an incredibly under-appreciated singer-songwriter. Or this one, about Facebook’s comparatively small advertising revenue (Planet Money rocks). Or, this morning, this one, about the media landscape in Afghanistan.
Buried in that report is this statistic — 60 percent of the Afghan population is under 20 years old. Think about that for a minute. Just imagine that generation as they come of age — what they’ve experienced, what they’ve learned, what they’ve seen, and what they know of us.
That thought hit me especially hard this morning because this weekend, my son will be graduating from the high school drama program at University of North Carolina School of the Arts. My daughter, who dances with the Bossov Ballet at Maine Central Institute, has just started learning to drive. These are seminal moments in a child’s life, the kind of moments I’ve written about here before. And, if your parenting is anything like ours, you devote a tremendous amount of time, attention, and (often) money engineering your life and your children’s lives so that these kinds of moments come.
I look at it as leading my children down a passageway defined by our belief system and our worldview and our ideas about what is right and good … and what is not. And that passageway is lined with doors, each one representing an opportunity for growth and direction. Each one is an opportunity for forward motion, for taking the first steps toward rich, productive and — we hope — the happiest of lives.
We don’t push them through. We simply try to make sure that we open as many as we can, explain to our children what the landscape beyond that door might hold, and then let them choose whether or not they want to walk through it. For my son, this has meant a second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, the release of two CDs, including a complete solo project – words, music, instruments, recording, even clapping — and now some impressive acting chops to take with him to Drew University in the fall. My daughter spent nearly two years dancing with the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, DC before switching to the Bossov. She’s an amazing and dedicated dancer, and shows incredible promise as a thinker and a writer. There are many, many doors yet to come for her, but I know they will open, and I know she will choose wisely.
And what of a similar generation in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? Or rural Maine, for that matter? What doors are being opened for them? Or, perhaps more tellingly, what doors will remain forever and always closed?
It’s commencement season here at Colby College and at high schools and colleges across the country. And whether or not we have participants in those ceremonies, we all have plenty of reasons to celebrate these new beginnings — all the things that are commencing. But this morning, at least for a moment, I had reason to think about other young lives, lives without open doors and new beginnings, and what my obligation might be to them.