Are you as exasperated as I am watching this generation do what they do, or are not doing for the sake of self, family and community? When I think of innocence I readily harken to the spiritual aspect of naivete where things may be clear to the human mindset until there’s reason to doubt based on what is there to see. And what I see appalls me to no end. The Bible teaches us many things about obedience and how to sustain it. 1 Corinthians 13:11 will play a prominent role in how I would answer a query that was posed to me recently --- “What happened to innocence?” This was the question asked of me by a colleague of mine to comment on the youth of today and how our communities are disenfranchised. Are we all guilty to some degree of not doing more to direct our youth to better decisions, teach them responsively to be respectful of discipline, or even to just pay attention? Personally, I will always feel that I could have and can do more! Simplicity to me can spell innocence as I remember days of yore where not knowing wasn’t held accountable to you, and where blame was diverted to your younger siblings who you could undoubtedly shift the angst, too. Innocence can also be as simplistic as me remembering those days playing basketball and shooting marbles with my friends; then there were other simpler things, like walking in the rain coming from anywhere, or holding hands in the park with my girl who I wanted to be closer to. Gaining favor with other girls and of course, counting conquests and notching them with a sense of accomplished value was par for the course! Growing up in a family of six boys and one girl (who should have been a boy) gave us a plethora of things that would remind us that the age of innocence was truly what we made of it. I can see myself now daydreaming for hours on end of the journeys undiscovered without need to be documented. We would lay for hours under a hot Miami midnight counting twinkling stars at night and wondering whether God was watching us looking for Him. We savored sunsets and admired dawn’s early light. Such simple times were full of wondrous joy and nostalgic bliss. What happened to those times? Where in time did we find the need to change, or ignore the lessons that the village taught us? Where are the ‘Big Mamas’ who ruled with an iron fist and dared you to think about being mad.
Innocence can be whatever you feel it should be, or should have been...it’s about the things that are foreign to us that which are not discernible, but are prone to change sooner or later. It could be that which is destined to allow you to go unscathed as long as you manage to stay out of harm’s way...or it could be the catalyst that would put you in the way of change without challenge. We all have experienced the unknown, as well as seen times when we knew that we could only go so far; or that the law of averages would dictate that we throw caution to the wind and experience life the way it would manifest our destiny. When I think of innocence, I also think of my grandkids. When did we lose the childlike innocence that we see in them? Was it a culmination of life's disappointments? Or did we just grow tired of finding and doing new things. Oh how easy it is to throw up our hands in desperation and succumb to the world at large. Moreover, it's easier to sit in the den and flip through television channels than it is to play a game with my youngest grandchild, Mauriah. God gave me a second chance and fatherhood and I’m milking it! It’s also why I can do a greater job at being even a surrogate father to my nephew whose father walked away denying him his birthright. It’s why I bother to teach he and my young son how to respond to hard questions? It's easier to take a nap and wonder about the other darnest things that kids are prone to say nowadays. Ah, just imagine how much we’ve lost in this present generation from that of what you’ve experienced growing up in an earlier age. The age of innocence? Sit long and hard and think about that, honestly. We need to think about seeing things through a different set of lenses...the eyes of a child are full of inconsistencies and uncertainty if we look long enough. Goodness knows they try to see things through our eyes, and if they don’t see what you’re trying to convey to them there will be alternatives that they will turn to.
What happened to innocence is not an easy thing to answer for me at times, though. Recently, I finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee which one of its themes is centered around losing childhood innocence in the face of a pronounced decision-making venue. After reading it, all I could do was think how it was growing up in the Historic part of Miami where the village really raised me. And as a result, I can’t forget thinking about that childhood innocence and how I may have lost it. To be honest, it has upset me greatly to see how things have changed and how the kids of this generation just don’t get it. Growing up in the mid to late 50’s and early 60’s is a far cry to what I see today, especially when I drive through my old neighborhood seeing how neglected it is today. Every time I think about it, it makes me extremely depressed, because I truly treasure my childhood memories to a fault. But those memories are hard and resolute to the point where I refuse to forget what happened...I have the time to endeavor to do better because I’ve answered God’s call for ME to make a difference. I will be that mentor to teach, talk and tower over the adversity that surrounds them. It’s about being accountable for the soul of a man to stand up. I will not dwell on what should have been; or what I should have done; or even what I would have done -- I’m doing it NOW. Innocence lost is wisdom found in all of us living righteous lives as we train children up to follow all Biblical principles. Innocence is God’s gift to us all to nurture and be nurtured...and if you’ve lost this precious gift and wonder where it went, dare to dream, but know that I really just want to keep mine!