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by Joan Bramsch
We often hear the term, "Growing free." These two words evoke a tranquil
scene: a youngster skipping through meadows, wondering at the beauty of a
wild flower and laughing at the wind and the clouds. The child is never
threatened by exterior forces; he lives safe and protected within his
childhood. Wishing only to be happy and free, the child is permitted to
pick and choose his activities.
Most often, the child, because he is a child, wants only the privileges --
making the noise, scattering the toys, demanding unequal time. He cares
little for the responsibility of growing -- making loud noises only
out-of-doors, picking up the scattered toys, sharing the space and time
around him. Surely, children must learn that responsibility is the twin of
privilege. Without the first, the second expands to undesired proportions;
thus, if left untempered, we see irresponsible adolescents and adults.
Today, many adolescents, soon after the onset of puberty, find themselves
searching for a meaningful relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
Some take seriously their responsibility to protect themselves against
unwanted pregnancy, while others become unwed parents or victims of teenage
marriage. Both groups, the responsibly sexually active young people and
the "it won't happen to me just this once" adolescent are often
irresponsible to their duties in the home -- unkempt bedrooms, refusal to
help gladly or altogether with family chores. In short, seeing the job but
not doing it. Again, we hear their demand for mature privileges and their
blindness to everyday responsibilities.
Most times, these young people have been taught to enjoy the good feelings
of a job well done; however, during this period of their lives they live in
a world of self-centered egotism, unable to fulfill their duties as a
member of a family. Usually, after the seventeenth year, the egomaniac
shrinks to manageable proportions and, once again, the young person can
become a responsible family member.
The young people who have never been schooled in responsible behavior and
the others who grow to adulthood still caught in the groove of inward
adolescence become the misfits of society. They continually change jobs
because they still believe there is a perfect vocation for them (read:
little work, no responsibilities). Or, like many indoctrinated by the
welfare system, they believe if they are looking, if they are standing on
line, they are, in fact, doing something constructive for their owe
well-being. Many times they leave family and friends in search of Utopia and, often, they
become embittered old people who believe that they were never given the
opportunity for happiness. Opportunity was always there, right in front of
their eyes, only they looked but did not see.
Now this is not to say that searching for one's place in this world is not
good. The searching can be done responsibly. But one must remember that
happiness can never be found in the outward -- happiness is found within.
Each of us has a responsibility to be happy. It certainly isn't an easy
task. Every day cannot be joyous. We must have some pain or else we can
never fully savor the delicious taste of success.
It is a privilege and a responsibility to live each day to the best of our
ability. No one owes us happiness. No one can make us happy but the Power to Be and
the ability to be happy that lies within. We each have the responsibility for our own
welfare and happiness. It's the only way to grow "free" in society.