America is built on families and neighborhoods. This is where beliefs and values are learned and tested. What happens when we get push-back? Do we retreat or stay the course? What happens when we stand alone for a cause we believe in?
If Moms and Dads are doing our job, we bring beliefs and values to the table to help our children weather the winter storms. And when necessary, a side order of tough love ensuring their roots grow deep. Nudging our children into uncomfortable places testing their resolve. Helping them to form beliefs and convictions about who they are, why they are here, and where they ought to be headed.
Healthy neighborhoods become an extension of the home-front, as is discussed in Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. Here, not too far from the watchful eye of Mom and Dad and maybe an older brother or sister we begin the exploration of what lies out there beyond Mom’s apron strings.
For me, it was my first opportunity to learn about free enterprise and capitalism. “That will be $.10 for a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade.” “But all I have is a nickel.” “Okay, you have a deal.” Supply and Demand. There are, however, no blue skies and no lemonade stands in too many of our cities. They have become deserts of joy where entire neighborhoods of kids drop-out of school and live with a heavy cloud inside their heads.
In my neighborhood growing up, brotherhood and team work were taught when we planted together a garden of tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkins and squash. At harvest time we sat side by side and carved our Halloween imaginations.
We learned about sacrifice and sharing when our best friend’s father got laid off and we put some of our own Christmas presents under their tree.
We broke bread together, even though we attended different churches, voted for different political parties, and spoke with different accents. My Mom and Dad believed the best soil was the soil with the richest nutriments. Soil with all sorts of people. People with ideas different from our own. People with fair complexions and blue eyes, and people like the Tammaros who have Mediterranean skin and dark eyes. While we may have looked different on the outside, we were all the same on the inside. Our beliefs and values braided us together.
Unfortunately the harvest in many of our neighborhoods is too often drugs fed by poverty. Values of dependency have replaced the values of creating and individual initiative. And rather than rejuvenating opportunity in these neighborhoods, our immigration programs are adding a bumper crop of children and adults with few skills to succeed.
There is something that happens at our ballparks that is truly American and happens no place else. You can be sitting 20 seats in from the isle, call for some hotdogs, peanuts and cold drinks and strangers take your money, pass it to the isle and then without a snarl or grumble pass your drinks, hot dogs, peanuts and change right back to you. For that moment you have a front role seat at America the beautiful.
Each and every field of dreams has it’s own unique personality like the cities where they have grown up. LA, Chicago. Saint Louis. New York. Boston. And when you are there, it seems like anything and everything is possible. Especially if you are a kid reaching to catch a fly ball on a sunny afternoon. And then we put them behind a desk and saddle them with the Teacher’s Union. What a waste of an imagination that believes in pink elephants.
Remember it is all about time and the right soil. To everything there is a season. A time to plant and a time to grow. A time to build and a time to tear down.
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong…
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel? Fred M. Rogers/1968