Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

For their seventh birthday earlier this year, our twin sons were given small planter boxes and the seeds for them to grow small tomatoes, banana peppers and small watermelons.
Interestingly, each planter box seemed to take on the personality of the young farmer. In one box, the watermelons grew in a neat and orderly fashion, while in the other, the tomatoes and the watermelons become entwined, unruly and free spirited.
We’ve had some successes, with their tomatoes in a few salads or a pepper included in afternoon nachos. We’ve had some failures, with a watermelon succumbing to rot before it grew to an adequate size. Through it all, nurturing these plants have given our sons a project, a responsibility, an opportunity to glean values and life lessons.
Growth can be challenging, painful, even daunting at times. Yet, we’re better for it. Infants learn to roll over. Toddlers learn to complete puzzles. Middle school students learn how to change classes. High school students learn proper note-taking and study strategies.
It seems that at each age, there are appropriate opportunities to recover from adversity. As they grow in wisdom and in age, fortitude and toughness can be cultivated. The difficulties of the current age seem impossible in the moment, but silly in retrospect.
There are also external crises that build resiliency. In the Gulf Coast, we know what it means to prepare, evacuate and rebuild after a hurricane. Our western neighbors in southwest Louisiana are experiencing this in real time after Hurricane Laura brought destructive winds, with power and water weeks away from being restored. While Catholic Charities of Southwest Louisiana in the Diocese of Lake Charles gives assistance, it will be the parents walking with their children in the rebuilding process that will give them an opportunity to be resilient.
2020 will be a year to remember and to see its effects on our young people. The COVID-19 pandemic upset their education, their families, and what was considered “normal.” The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery sparked peaceful protests and a dialogue on race relations. The presidential election and the current political climate serve as an undertone to everything going on in our country.
This year especially, I have been reminded in so many ways something that I knew to be true: young people have an untapped and undeveloped resiliency within them, and sometimes that best shines when adults form and empower our young people to be protagonists of their own stories. Young people are resilient, can overcome challenges, and say loudly, “We will not be deterred. We will bounce back. We will grow and be better.”
Parents and adults who accompany young people can place trust in our youth to learn from their mistakes. Instead of helicoptering over them, or worse — removing any adversity in their path, we can help build resiliency in our young people. In age appropriate ways, our children can experience “safe” failures, such as a forgotten notebook remains at home.
Pope Francis writes, “A young person stands on two feet as adults do, but unlike adults, whose feet are parallel, he always has one foot forward, ready to set out, to spring ahead. A young person is a promise of life that implies a certain degree of tenacity. He is foolish enough to delude himself, and resilient enough to recover from that delusion.” (Christus Vivit 139)
We can learn from our young people what it means to be resilient in this modern age. We can nurture the fortitude our young people need. We invest in our young people’s future, cultivating a rich environment for them to grow. Like the plants in our little garden boxes, when the time is right, young people can bloom and produce fruit in the Kingdom of God sixty or a hundred fold.
— Adam Ganucheau is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile. He may be emailed at aganucheau@mobarch.org
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By Editor

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