Better or Bitter? How Have We Left Our Children?

question markThe message delivered in the commercial below is puzzling at first. In each case, the young boy on the left appears to be handing something “better” to the young girl on the right. But then you realize that it is actually a father handing something “better” to his daughter than he had as a child: the shabby leather basketball becomes a shiny synthetic one, the clunky old joystick becomes the multifunctional video game controller, etc.

It has been a common American aspiration to want to hand on something better to the next generation. And although it’s not an evil notion by any means, it tends to be overly materialistic. Most parents want to provide their children with more money, bigger homes, and more creature comforts than they had.

But I really wonder if today’s typical 3,000 square foot home is really better than the 1,200 square foot one I grew up in. Are granite countertops really better than the laminate ones I knew? Is being constantly available through cell phones really better than relying on the hit-or-miss nature of using phones attached to the wall in nearly every home when I was growing up? I don’t know, you decide. My opinion is that the “bigger, richer, more options” world of today has diminishing returns.

On a deeper level, do our children really fare better in a world of unrestricted abortion, rampant divorce, sexual confusion, and the diseases and dysfunctions that accompany them? Have smaller families, euthanasia, political correctness, and moral relativism really improved things? Is the world we Baby Boomers are handing on really better or is it just more technologically advanced? What good are bigger homes when they are empty? What good are granite countertops when families don’t gather to eat dinner together anymore? What good is the Internet when it often pipes in error, pornography, and false values?

What if the commercial instead depicted a father handing on a deeper relationship with God than he had? What if it showed him handing on a clearer sense of moral and theological truth than he knew? Well, I guess that wouldn’t sell chicken, would it?

There’s nothing wrong with chicken nuggets; they do taste great. But the better world we hope to hand on to our children cannot be reduced to material things. Deeper values have been lost and we Baby Boomers allowed them to be pitched overboard on our watch. Bigger houses and more trinkets aren’t what our children need; what they need is a better world. As a Baby Boomer myself, I can say that unfortunately we are passing on to them a real mess instead.

Allow this commercial to make you think, especially if you are a Baby Boomer.

7 Replies to “Better or Bitter? How Have We Left Our Children?”

  1. One of the first questions in our old catechism is: Why did God make me? The answer is not referenced very often by us Catholics. We are to work to know, love and serve God in this world so that we can live eternity with Him in Heaven. There will always be longing in our hearts during our life on earth. As you said, Msgr, the answer isn’t a bigger home or a nice bike, it’s God.

    In today’s world we fail to work at the first two reasons for our creation or I should say we are not directed to do so. I just came home from Saturday morning Mass during which the priest told us that we are a religion of service. He actually said that service is our religion. He said nothing of knowing and loving God in order for us to serve as Christ served.

    When we don’t begin with knowing God and loving God our service is empty. I believe the priest this morning would agree with that, but he didn’t say that. Many years ago a priest told a group of children he was instructing, that if they perfected the first three Commandments, they would have no problem keeping the next seven.

    We must work hard at being detached from the things of this world; take delight in them and be grateful, but be able to leave them behind. The only way to help ourselves do that and aid our children in doing that is to study the catechism so we know how to live the Faith, teach a reverent Sign of the Cross, pray and read Sacred Scripture so that we fall in love with God, and approach the Sacraments correctly, with awe (even if we don’t feel it).

    Thank you for the post, Msgr Pope.

    1. You may find edifying James Hitchcock’s book, What is Secular Humanism?. It traces the rise of Christian denominations embracing this NGO-service model at the expense of considering the Almighty unnecessary to the project.

  2. I think about this a lot. When the message to children is “you’re only as good as your accomplishments” it leaves no room for our real purpose in life – to become saints.

  3. I agree with that. The same is true of the “Greatest Generation” which gave the Baby Boomers their distinctive Boomer values, albeit in 1200 sq.ft. houses. When I look at photos of my mom when she was a kid and young adult and how my grandparents raised her and how they behaved, what their marriage looked like, etc. which was the same as their parents and grandparents, I wonder how we got to where we are now. Why did the train go off the rails with the baby boomers? That’s the generation where the chain broke and everything got ugly.

  4. More is not better as all the advertising would have us believe. Nor is “new” better; how many new appliances last only a fraction of the years the old ones did. What is of timeless value is distained and refused as of no worth. The priceless treasure of salvation, of eternity with God, of a guided life with Christ are treated as if they don’t exist or are a myth. The few (and didn’t Jesus say there would only be a few?) are shamed for saying they depend on their Saviour. We must pray for the courage, the holy boldness to share with others our saving help in Jesus.

  5. Hear, hear…

    Acknowledging problems is the first step to solving problems. The technological dystopia we inhabit may be full of big houses and monied residents but it is empty of love, the true love that comes of God’s love, not the love of things, not the love of tinsel & trinkets.

    To turn this around, parents can start by turning off the television, banishing the pop culture from their familial life and returning to the Sacraments.

    Yes our darling old Western civilization is in galloping decline but it need not be irreversible decline. Each of us can work to revive and restore that civilization. But only by returning ourselves and our families to the Faith that made that civilization possible in the first place.

    God bless Msgr. Pope!

    Edward Short

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