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Train Up Children, Change the World

Teaching and training our children should be the most important priority in our efforts to secure the homeland. Our children are our most important investment in the future of our nation and our world. Children turn into adults who may give their lives to save the world or give their lives to destroy it.

“You don’t sound like you’re from around here,” the vendor said. “Where are you from?”
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“I’m from <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Georgia. There’s a group of us here volunteering at Safe Horizons. We are assisting people displaced from their jobs and homes after 9/11.” 
 
A man in line behind Bill heard the conversation and chimed in. “I grew up in Georgia. What part of Georgia are you from?” 
 
“I’m from Athens,” Bill replied.
 
The man responded, “I grew up in Moultrie, down in South Georgia.” 
 
“Moultrie?” Bill asked with surprise. “We’ve got a group of volunteers with us from Moultrie! You need to come down and meet them.”
 
Later that day, Dan Puissegur came to the Safe Horizons volunteer center and introduced himself to our group. Dan is a Cuban-American who graduated from MoultrieHigh School in 1969. His father came to this country as a boy and settled in Moultrie as an employee with Swift and Company. That’s how Dan ended up as a student in ColquittCounty.
 
As we sat and talked with him last January, our conversation oscillated from our answering his questions about people he grew up with, to his answering our questions about life in New York City before and after the terrorist attacks.
 
Dan later led me to the roof of his Park Avenue apartment. The vantage point gave me a clear view of ground zero, where only the day before the remains of another firefighter had been discovered.
 
I tried to imagine the carnage, bravery, fear, heroism, evil and good that had taken place in that 16-acre area in the previous months. I realized I couldn’t comprehend it all.
 
Dan and I mostly looked without talking, struggling to sort through our feelings, struggling to comprehend the magnitude of that day for our country and world. 
 
My thoughts kept carrying me to my own children. I wondered what kind of world awaits them. Will there be peace on earth, ever? Will humankind ever stop dreaming of ways to kill each other? Will my boys and their friends grow up with a pessimistic view of the future? Will they believe they can make a difference, or will they believe their efforts cannot possibly change the world?
 
The evening of the attacks, I gathered my family in our living room to talk. We prayed together and we cried together. To my children, New York City and Washington, D.C.—and their problems—seem a million miles away. They are still too young to understand that 9/11’s tremors were felt in every city in our country and world.
 
One day they will understand there are no islands anymore. We are all connected. What we think, feel and believe affects people in Japan, India, Egypt or Africa. What people think, feel and believe in Iraq, England, Russia and Brazil affects us. Our problems become the world’s problems. The world’s problems become ours.
 
Meeting Dan Puissegur reminded me that some of ColquittCounty’s children will be at the center of tomorrow’s news. Children growing up today in Moultrie will be tomorrow’s soldiers who defend our country. Some may be the victims of others’ hate. It’s not likely that the last resident of this county has died for his or her country.
 
Children growing up today in ColquittCounty will either contribute to world peace, or pull us further into events that cause God to grieve over humankind. Most children do not yet believe they can make any measurable difference in this world. It’s our job to teach them they can! But we must believe it first!
 
The extent that we teach our own children the value of God and country is the extent to which there is any hope for this country and the next generation. It’s not likely we will convince them at a young age that they are our hope. But if we believe that we can influence the world by influencing our own children, we should never lack a sense of purpose, power and hope.
 
Children don’t yet understand how intricately connected they are to children across the globe. As adults, we should know that our shore feels ripples from a single pebble cast into the ocean from abroad, and vice versa. This means it is more important than at any other time to follow the ancient proverb: “Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” (Prov 22:6).
 
Teaching and training our children should be the most important priority in our efforts to secure the homeland. Our children are our most important investment in the future of our nation and our world. Children turn into adults who may give their lives to save the world or give their lives to destroy it.
 
Next time you feel helpless to make any difference, find a child you can love, influence, mentor and train in the paths of righteousness.
 
You will impact the world.
 
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column first appeared in The Moultrie Observer.