By Beth Bruno, guest writer
Thompson School District
Fort Collins, Colorado
During the holidays, a local farmer runs a horse carriage service downtown. About 80,000 lights are strung on trees and the main street through Old Town turns magical. I finally took a carriage ride this year and the farmer doubles as a tour guide. He began with the piece of trivia we locals hear the most: “Walt Disney modeled Main Street, U.S.A. after our town.”
There is pride here, in our small, relatively affluent college town, known for bike trails and micro-breweries. Not much crime, not much poverty, not much suffering. The average resident is shocked to hear that our teens are sex trafficked or that sexting is a big problem or drug houses exist. Although, I’m not sure why. We hear about it on a regular basis at our dinner table.
For seven years, we’ve lived in a neighborhood with an elementary school a block away. All three of our children have attended and played with the same kids in the pool during summer break and on the sledding hills, monkey bars. We enjoy a micro-community of familiarity and friendliness. The school is full of great teachers, involved parents, and a caring administration. It is also full of broken people.
Our school is like every other school and every other church and every other place where a sizable number of individuals congregate. It doesn’t matter that the majority is white, middle class, and Protestant – we are sinners. We are broken people. And hurt is ever present.
It took all of a few weeks the first year our first child was in this school for us to hear all about it over dinner. Don’t get me wrong, it was startling at first. And it would be hypocritical for me to say we didn’t contemplate Christian schools or other districts at various times. But by and large, we have loved getting to metabolize the hard of life with them as they navigate stuff they might not see elsewhere (not that it doesn’t exist, but we sense it might not be so out in the open – Christians do a pretty good job of covering up hurt).
Indeed, we believe it’s our job as parents to help digest in bite-sized chunks whatever the world throws at them. Only when we help shape the narrative, rather than shielding children from it, will they be prepared to enter and contribute to a culture which desperately needs them.
This has led to reading books, listening to music, and watching TV shows or films that we wouldn’t choose, but is culturally relevant to their generation. And then we process. It has led to political debate and theological discussion and really hard topics at younger and younger ages. And then we process.
Processing the consequences of hurt has formed more empathetic children far more than anything. They get the complexity of how our story impacts our behavior. They have a lens through which they view people that is comfortable with a little gray, able to absorb rough edges, and more grace-filled than they would be if they had fewer encounters with hurting people.
Engaging the beautiful mess of our public elementary school has given us material to raise kids more prepared to bring the fullness of themselves to the kingdom of God.
Their generation is inheriting a hurting and complex church and culture. They will need a lens of grace to restore a gospel of hope. I write in my book, A Voice Becoming, “When our daughters are exposed to the ashes of the fall in conjunction with an imagination and an expectation to create beauty out of it, passion and purpose will fill the hungry heart.” The ashes of the fall are plentiful in my pristine little town, as they are in yours. May we be parents who aren’t afraid of exposing our children to it.
THESE WORDS BROUGHT TO YOU BY: Beth Bruno is an activist, author, and speaker working to empower a new generation of women. She is the founding director of a human trafficking prevention organization and author of A Voice Becoming: A Yearlong Mother-Daughter Journey into Passionate, Purposed Living (Faith Words, 2018). You can find her at www.bethbruno.org, on Instagram @bethhbruno or Facebook @bethhillarybruno.