When’s the last time you read a news story with a happy ending?
After all, as a general rule of thumb, it’s the noise that makes news.
It’s human nature.
Maybe it’s because bad news makes us feel better about ourselves. Our lives could be worse – just look at that sad and sordid story.
But then there’s Heard County High School in Franklin, Georgia, population 993.
In a nod to tradition, seniors in the high school there regularly try and pull off a prank this time of year. It’s intended to be good-natured fun to help celebrate their upcoming graduation. This year, some of Heard’s students took the school’s American flag and spray-painted “Seniors 2K18!” across it.
Flag desecration – some prank.
Reaction was swift and harsh, with administrators, teachers, other students and community leaders expressing unified and justifiable outrage over the vandalism.
Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.
Heard County High School’s Principal Brent Tisdale met with the students and determined they didn’t intend to disrespect the flag. He turned it into a “teachable moment” by inviting veterans to come and talk with the offending students about patriotism and the meaning of the Stars and Stripes. According to reports, the students were deeply remorseful, with several breaking down in tears following their meetings with men and women of our Armed Forces.
This practical and down-to-earth approach to their bad behavior brings me back to my childhood, as a kid growing up in Southern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. My father had abandoned us when I was just 5, and so my scrappy mother did her best to keep the Daly kids on the straight and narrow. There was very little money. She waited tables to make ends meet. I don’t know how she kept it all together, raising 5 kids on her own.
But if we acted up or out, my mom used every available resource to set us in the right direction, including the wisdom and counsel of the many adults in our neighborhood. My mother was direct and no-nonsense and made sure we were surrounded by people who possessed a similar disciplinarian style to hers.
I was reminded of my late mother’s good habits when I heard about Principal Tisdale’s reaction to the flag desecration. His approach was utterly practical. Who better to talk about our flag’s meaning than the men and women who have voluntarily and sacrificially stepped forward to defend it?
It seems that Mr. Tisdale also understands the volatile and very imperfect nature of teenagers. It’s easy to run down today’s youth, to discount and diminish them as something less than America’s best.
Surely there are plenty of examples of deviance and delinquency to point to to make the case.
Yet, it has always been so, and Brent Tisdale gets it. Kids have been making mistakes since the beginning of time – and always will. As parents, teachers and church and community leaders, it’s our job to cultivate, develop and nurture the rising generation, mistakes and all. We’re also called on to confront and correct, as well as coach them in the right direction. Our efforts may take time. In fact, when it comes to raising children, we often don’t immediately see the results of our efforts.
As the apostle Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).
The Lord entrusts our children to our care for a very brief season. As the old saying goes, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Parenthood can be a difficult assignment, especially given some children’s temperaments and dispositions. But children are a “heritage from the Lord” and akin to “arrows in the hands of a warrior” (Psalm 127:3-4). So when challenges come your way like those at Heard County High School, remember to lean on Him and those you trust for help and guidance. In the end, I think you’ll find God faithful.