Are We Products of Nature or Nuture? Neither. We are products of personal choice.

In both directions of inheritance good traits/habits vs. bad traits/habits, it is easy to believe we are going to be just like our parents!  Afterall, both sets of genes have entered our bodies, so it seems logical.  That’s where Humans are superior to other mammals.  That’s pretty cool.  Choose who you want to be and then become that person.

Although we might physically resemble one parent or another, our lives are ours alone and we have the ability to make of them what we choose.   If we don’t like a trait that was genetically “given” to us, and the list is very lengthy, we have the abilities not to become that ourselves.

IT IS NOT ALWAYS EASY, BUT IT CAN BE DONE.   We alone are the “nurturer” of our existence.  If our parents abuse controlled substances in any fashion, we do not have to follow suit. If they always over-eat and never exercise, we can set the new norm for the family by eating healthy and exercising daily.  If we were constantly put down and verbally abused as children…it is important that it stop with us. We do not do it with our own children!

How liberating and healing it is to realize our life is more of our own choices and very little of genetics.  However, all people have good characteristics… even the ones who struggle with their own positive choices.  Find those good characteristics within yourself, that you inherited from those “genes” and nurture them.

The negative gene characteristics… we all need to let them go.

Witnessing firsthand the downfall of many young people, today! Negative Choices: negative consequences!

I try to keep up with many of my former students’ lives.  Over the years, I have taught so many; I’d like to say I remember them all, but that would be a lie.  I do remember all of those with “promise” and all of those with “struggles” as they took most of my attention and heart during the time I had them in the classroom. It’s impossible for me  to say who touched me the most.  Was it the ones that had so much potential, and actually went on to accomplish great things after they left me, or the ones who had overcome great odds and just getting them to come to school and eventually graduate high school had been a feat in itself?   I  can’t say.

In today’s high-tech society it is easy to follow their progress… or lack of.  Often they contact me themselves, my email has been the same since AOL’s inception and my students have  many times told me…”It’s so you, Ms. Brown!”  For that reason alone, I will always keep it.  Lately, it has not been difficult to track them down on the Internet. Sometimes, it’s through one of the conventional social connectors: i.e.  MySpace or Facebook or now they tell me to Twitter them, but it’s also easy to Google them and see what they’re up to.

AND…every once in a while, I am sent a news article that delights me or causes me concern.  Technology makes us all connected… good and bad news.

It was one of the latter, that has been consuming most of my thinking the past few days.  I was forwarded  news  about one of the students that had held so much promise. He was gifted academically, a wonderful athlete, a leader in his class, and was ultimately accepted into one of the most prestigious universities in the Northeast.  He has now been out of college for quite a few years. The article read that He had just been sentenced to prison for the next decade of his life… on drug related charges.  It took my breath away.  How had this happened?

His proverbial fall from grace not only astounded me, but made me cry.  He was a student that had passed through my life and yet, I felt like I had failed him.  I can’t even imagine the raw emotions his parents must be having. The feelings must run the full reign from anger, sadness, failure, and shame… then back to anger!  I know that’s what I felt anyway.   How dare he throw his life away like that! Life is about CHOICE and with each and every positive choice we make we define who we are. What I couldn’t get my mind around was how selfish this young man had been.  He had thought of no one but himself with his destructive actions.  Hadn’t he seen that?  Where had he “learned” that he could do whatever he wanted to and not be accountable?

When we are given gifts and/or talents in our individual journeys, during this time on Earth, and we throw them away… we are being disrespectful not only to our Creator, but to all who love, nurture, and take care of us.  It is  hard for me to reflect on the number of young people who come from really difficult backgrounds and home lives and do go on to make the world a better place for those who will follow them.  There are many of those, but many “choose” to go the wrong way too.  This was not the first former student who had chosen a destructive path in their lives.

It is then that I wondered with guilt if Society, as a whole, has just been too easy on America’s youth and young adults in the past two decades! I am the first to acknowledge that there are many wonderful young people, but have we lost something that used to be present years ago, by giving too much and asking too little of them. When do they stop asking for: cars, trips, and parents to “bail them out”  when they get into legal and/or financial trouble.   It appears that we have created a generation of “entitlement” in our country. There is an unspoken ME, among many of them, that is troubling.  We love them so much that we honestly believe the way to make them love us back is to always give, forgive, and ignore their negative choices.

Perhaps, we adults/parents are the selfish and needy ones. It is difficult to have our  children not “love us” or even dislike us from time to time.  What I’m professing is that being  good parents, (coaches or educators as well), requires a strong backbone.  Being strong parents is necessary and we must be consistent, even when our “children” get older.    There can be no coping out because it’s easier to say “Yes,” or “I’ll get you out of it,” or “Here’s the money for…,” saying “No” is difficult, but often the only right thing to do.    However, America’s youth are accountable for their own screw ups and there are always consequences for bad choices. They did not consult with us when they had unprotected sex, bought and used drugs/alcohol illegally, ran up credit cards, or dropped out of school.  We need to recognize that they can learn from their mistakes.  We did.

We can not cure the problem(s) of our country’s upcoming generations, but we sure can start fixing our own mistakes in how we love them and guide them in positive directions.   Right now, we must start by being stronger parents/adults ourselves, giving our children less, and speaking up about any negative choices in their lives when it’s necessary. 

Children who are more special than most!

Blessed are all parents, but none more so than those who care for children who come with extra challenges and tests.

I am the child who cannot talk.

You wonder how much I am aware of … I see that as well. I am aware of much;  I see whether you are happy and content or sad and fearful, patient or impatient, full of love and desire or if you are just doing your duty by me. I marvel at your frustration, knowing mine to be far greater, for I cannot express myself or my needs as you are able to do.

You cannot conceive my isolation; it’s so complete at times. I do not gift you with clever conversation, cute remarks to be laughed over and then repeated to others. I do not give you answers to your everyday questions, responses over my well-being, share my needs, or comment about the world about me. I do not give you rewards as defined by the world’s standards… great strides in my development with which you can credit yourself; I do not give you understanding, as you know it.

What I give you is so much more valuable… I give you instead opportunities. Opportunities to discover the depth of your own character, not mine; the depth of your love, your commitment, your patience, your abilities; the opportunity to explore your spirit more deeply than you imagined possible. I drive you further than you would ever go on your own,  always working harder, and seeking answers to your many questions with no answers.  Yes, I am the child who cannot talk.

I am the child who cannot walk.

The world seems to pass me by. You see the longing in my eyes to get out of this chair, to run and play like other children. There is much you take for granted. I want the toys on the shelf, I need to go to the bathroom, and I’ve dropped my fork, again. I am dependant on you in these ways. My gift to you is to make you more aware of your great fortune, your healthy back and legs, your ability to do for yourself. Sometimes, people appear not to notice me; I always notice them. I feel not so much envy as desire. A desire to stand upright, to put one foot in front of the other, and to be independent. I give you awareness. Yes,  I am the child who cannot walk.

I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I don’t learn easily, if you judge me by the world’s measuring stick, what I do know is infinite joy in simple things. I am not burdened as you are with the challenges and conflicts of a more complicated life. My gift to you is to grant you the freedom to enjoy things as a child, to teach you how much your arms around me mean, to give you love. I give you the gift of simplicity. Yes, I am the child who is mentally impaired.

I am the disabled child; I am your teacher.

If you allow me, I will teach you what is really important in life.

I will give you and teach you unconditional love.

I gift you with my innocent trust , my dependency upon you.

I teach you about how precious this life is and about not taking things for granted.

I teach you about forgetting your own needs and desires and dreams.

I teach you endless giving.

Most of all, I teach you Hope and Faith.

I am not disabled; I am special!

Sue Brown ©