Op-ed submission by Project 21
Christmastime is supposed to be a time of good cheer, but what I have to say about it will likely offend some and infuriate others.
More often these days, it’s a time dominated by the concern: “What do I get the kids for Christmas?” A lot of parents plaintively searching for things they can ill-afford and – in reality – their kids really don’t need. But, for those unable to differentiate between wasting money, overspending and what a child really needs, the quest is on. Children really need something substantive and there is nothing more enduring than a fundamental understanding of what Christmas is about and the reason we celebrate it.
Christmas is about the birth of Christ. It is about the love of God for mankind. God sent His only Begotten Son, to be born of a virgin. Through His virgin birth, death and resurrection, we can have eternal life with Him if we confess, believe and accept Him in our hearts.
But too many parents only seem willing to sit with their children to watch imbecilic TV programs than discuss “Christmas Truths”. They will take their kids to Wal-Mart and Target before they take them to church. Some do go to church, but not not necessarily to learn of Christ. To them, it’s a Christmas obligation.
It’s all part of a larger problem of society being divided by educational preparedness. Children must be able to function on par levels to contribute to the continued devolvement of our nation’s intellectual ascendancy. I’m not against toys and gifts, but I am against ignorance. If children cannot read, write, speak or interact beyond the immediate environs of their neighborhoods, how will they be able to contribute to our tomorrow?
I was raised by a single mother who suffered an emotional breakdown when I was ten years old. Despite that, she never allowed her condition to excuse me from learning. I did not go without a toy, but the gifts I received -regardless of how basic – reinforced her belief in educational preparedness. They also came with the strict expectation that I excel academically. She and my grandmother set the bar high, and I was expected to respond.
Today, the bar generally seems to be lower. Children can repeat verbatim the words to dozens of stupid, worthless and – in many instances – vulgar, anti-social, misogynistic “rhymes” masquerading as music, but they have likely never read Charles Dickens or Mark Twain and or heard Bach or Brahms.
My grandmother used to say: “An excuse is the easiest thing in the world to find.” Parents today must stop making excuses for underperforming children. And to those parents who thump their chests with pride because they have a bumper sticker proclaiming their child’s honor status, they owe it to themselves to check the quality of the schooling.
In my office I have two old family photos – one from the mid/late 1880s, and the other from 1900. One was born a slave, while the two in the other photo were born just after emancipation. I was told that my relatives in those photos were able to read and write. For that era, it was a true gift.
Toys break and the newest electronic and computer games seem obsolete minutes after they are purchased. A truly valuable gift is a bankbook and savings account for a child to contribute to regularly – and to which there are strict guidelines for withdrawal. Too few children understand the value of money and the need to save it.
This Christmas, for those who choose not to share the Truth of Christmas, at least give children more than a video game or earrings. Give them something that, when they are older, they will still have.
Books don’t break and a penny saved is still a penny earned.
Mychal Massie is the chairman of the black leadership network Project 21.