Hope Network Newsletter: A Letter to our Grandchildren (Nov-Dec 1999)

By Matt Dabbs

by Lynn and Carolyn Anderson
November-December, 1999

Dear Grandchildren,

The horrible Colorado high school disaster is several months old now. But Columbine seems to have spawned several copycat school violence attempts around the country. Unfortunately, this in turn has also triggered an avalanche of negative generalizations on the heads of American teens. Nevertheless, these unfair and overstated generalizations have warped public perception. In a survey by Public Agenda in early May 1999, 74% of parents described kids as “rude” and “irresponsible” and “wild”; while only 40% of parents polled said today’s teens will grow up to leave America better than they found it. We, your Gran and Pappy, are among those who are tired of hearing today’s teens trashed.

Of course, there is plenty of bad news. We can’t deny that there are some really messed up kids around, and some really mean ones. Probably a few in every school. But, there are lots of mean and messed up adults as well. (After all, we human beings are sinners, part of a fallen race.) However, most kids are neither messed up nor mean. In fact just the opposite appears to be the trend. Here are some hopeful facts: “In 1980, 72% of high school seniors said they had been drinking alcohol recently; by 1998, that figure had dropped to 52%. Drug usage, especially marijuana, is down as well. Teen pregnancy rtes have been falling since 1991 and most recently were at the same level as in 1980. Homicides remain historically high among teens, but striking improvements have come in big cities like New York, Boston, and Los Angeles.”

And the improvement is not just in teen behavior; a lot of it is in basic values as well. For example, teens are volunteering in droves for community projects and to work with children. Just since 1995, 100,000 have enlisted in AmeriCorp – more than the Peace Corps (a similar kind of program, which started in the ’60s) had in its first 20 years.

Hey, Andress, Shaylea, andCaitlin, your grandparents are very aware that you represent the very best of this good news kind of American teen. On top of that, you are Christ followers, as are millions of teen-aged Americans. And that makes the big good news difference.

At Columbine, only two teens – out of the hundreds in that school – triggered the tragedy. The rest of the students are mostly just plain, normal, good kids. Those who got shot were some of the best. Don’t forget that Cassie Bernall was tracked down because she was a good kid, and when her killers “put a gun to her head while she was praying and asked if she still believed in God, she answered ‘Yes,’ knowing she would die for her answer.”

Actually and factually, if all the teen stories made the headlines, the teen news would be mostly good news. And we want you, our grandchildren, to know that we are proud you are choosing to be part of the good news.

Shaylea, Andress, and Caitlin, you are our three oldest grandchildren – now teenagers – and you provide excellent role models for your younger siblings and cousins. We are so proud that you do not contribute to the American “teen problem,” but to the solution. You are good news. All three of you have given your lives to Jesus, have been united with him baptism – and are serious about following him. You also are so loving and respectful to your parents, your teachers, and to us, your Gran and Pappy. Plus, all three of you run with bunches of wholesome friends, and you think it is silly and dangerous to even experiment with drugs. You love to be involved in community service or in serving the poor or helpless. Yet each of you is beautifully unique.

Andress, we can scarcely believe you are already 16, with a driver’s license. But more importantly, you are a leader among Christian teens at school and church. You were a leader among the kids who turned out of bed early that rainy morning and headed for school before daylight for the first “Meet you at the pole” prayer meeting, with dozens of your schoolmates in San Antonio. You haven’t missed one since. You are excited about being in music and drama presentations at your church. And you proudly wear on your wedding ring finger that “True love waits” covenant ring – a covenant with your Christian peers, with your parents, and with God to be sexually pure until marriage. Beyond this, you are very involved in academics, athletics and other school activities and are well liked. Andress Lynn Boggs, your life of worship and witness is definitely a part of the good news.

Shaylea, you are 15 now and a leader in your Christian circles – and have played a big part in musical productions at your Colorado Springs high school and at church. We love the songs of faith and praise that you write and sing to us. You have even helped lead worship. We celebrate your talent for photography too, and one of your most creative pictures hangs on our bedroom wall. And, like your cousin, you also eagerly chose to join a “True Love Waits” covenant. You are so thoughtful of others, especially attentive to people who get left out because they are challenged in some way. Plus, you manage relationships well and have lots of friends. Shaylea Dawn English, you are clearly part of the good news.

Caitlin, you are 14 as we write this. You too have long since committed your life to Christ. And we love the way you live it. Again, when you and dozens of your San Antonio classmates gathered “At the pole” for prayer, you were not only there, but had thoughtfully provided doughnuts and juice for everybody. We were so proud of your role in “Esther Goes West,” the drama and music presentation at your church. You are so creative. Since you were little you have written some really neat poetry – lots of it about your faith. And you are so very thoughtful of people, often surprising your parents or relatives by cleaning up the house in their absence, or making something special. You also have loads of friends, and are the life of the party. Caitlin Cory Boggs, you too are definitely part of the good news.

Travis, you are 11 – not quite a teen yet. But you are headed in the right direction. Ever since you were little, your heart has been tender toward God. You read Christian books, and, like your sisters and cousins, you listen to Christian music. You even say you want to be a preacher some day. And you have a very strong and sensitive conscience. You are also a talented singer and performer, like your dad – as well as a good athlete. We are amazed at your people skills and your thoughtfulness of those around you. You are a really good big brother to your little sister, Mariah, and a great example for her as well. Travis Hardin English you too are good news.

Abby, how did you get to be nine already? Although you won’t be a teen for a few years, we really like what we see. The poem you wrote in tribute to Rosa Parks is a classic and hangs on our refrigerator. It displays not only your talents but also your heart. And we love the way you are so excited about school. You read so quickly, completing nearly 100 books already this year! And you have loads of friends. You really set an inspiring example for your younger brother Conner and your little sister Ana. Abby Bridges Anderson, you are destined to be part of the teen-age good news.

Conner Robert Anderson, you are seven and, so far, the only male to carry on the Anderson family name. Already you love good things and are good news. You also say you want to be a preacher. (Of course, Gran and Pappy think it would be wonderful if you and Travis become preachers, but what matters much more to us is that you honor Jesus with your whole life, whatever vocations you follow.) Connor, with your encouragement and example, Ana Michelle Anderson who is now only three is becoming good news as well.

And Mariah Dee English, you are nowhere near a teen yet. But at six, you never meet a stranger and love to sing songs about Jesus. So we think you also are good news in the making.

Your Gran and Pappy know that none of you is perfect. Like your parents and grandparents, you never will be. You are each individual persons. So no matter how your parents raise you or what your siblings and cousins turn out to be, what each of you becomes is still your personal choice. No doubt each of you will disappoint yourselves at times. You will always be surrounded – at school and elsewhere – by all sorts of temptations and pressures, and you may mess up now and again. But we don’t expect you to give up nor let the peddlers of bad news beat you down, nor do we expect you to be shaped by negative media stereotypes.

Sure, we understand that very likely, not every good choice you make will be a good choice. And we cannot predict the outcome of your lives. But young people like you, and like millions of kids across the country – are good news – very good news. You are doing great and we believe you will keep maturing as people who make a positive difference.Wineskins Magazine

Lynn Anderson

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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