Touching the Year 2107

This morning, I spoke on the phone with my dad. He’s strong, wise, and soon to be 91 years old. Recently he met the newest member of the family, my grand-niece who is only a few months old. My sister sent me the picture of Daddy holding her, and I told my dad how much I enjoyed seeing him with his baby great-granddaughter. He said, “If she lives to be my age, she’ll still be around in 2107.”

Okay, I can’t imagine 2107. I can’t even imagine 2020. I can hardly keep track of recent and current advances, much less envision 2107!

But one thing, I know, doesn’t change: human nature. From ancient times until now and on into the future, we humans deal over and over again with the same character issues. We advance toward moral wisdom by taking two steps forward and one back. Or two forward and ten back. It seems that we’re in the stepping-back mode right now. It’s the one area in which we seem to have regressed: the practice of moral goodness and integrity of character.

I just finished writing a new book, The Gift of an Inner Moral Compass, and I’m preparing to speak at a conference in August on the subject of children and morality. It’s a timely topic, seeing as how so many adults are displaying so much ugly resentment these days. When I was asked to address teaching moral values to children, I rolled my eyes and whisper-shouted, “Duh! Easy answer: We have to stop being such bad examples!” But, then, I know it’s a bit more complex than that, and good-hearted parents and teachers are looking for the answer to a different question: “So what do we do when our leaders model the opposite of moral wisdom?” And . . . well, I guess you’ll just have to read the book.

Truly, there is hope. In Frederick Buechner’s novel Godric, he wrote, “[A]ll the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarce fill a cup.” So, too, I suspect, all the evil that ever was, set next to goodness, would scarce fill a cup. There is goodness all around us if we will just look for it. There is goodness all around us if we will just be it. I hope we’ll figure out the moral way forward long before 2107.

Neil Postman, an educator and media theorist, wrote, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” How amazing that we, here today, will touch 2107 and beyond, even if we don’t live to see it! Maybe we can’t turn the wheel to goodness and wisdom all at once, but we can turn it little by little in “a thousand small ways,” as David Brooks says in his book The Road to Character. Just bend each hour toward goodness. Bend each day toward goodness. Each month. Each year. Bend life toward goodness. Touch the future.

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Text © 2018 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.

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