Helmets for Hearts

A few years ago, the following email was forwarded by thousands. When it hit my inbox, I read it -- chuckling to myself -- at how true it all I was. (I copied and pasted the original email, so please excuse the spelling, grammar, and formatting issues.)

 TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930s 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s !! First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn’t get tested  for diabetes. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright-colored lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking. As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren’t overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING ! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day and we were O.K. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms……. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them! Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! If YOU are one of them . . . CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives for our own good And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn’t it?!

Nostalgically I thought back to my own childhood and the hours I spent going to friends' houses, playing capture the flag in the road, climbing trees, and stubbing toes. I biked without a helmet, swam without sunscreen, and ate food without ever having heard the word organic.

Our generation has definitely put a stop to all of that. From baby gates to fireproof clothes, from bike helmets to getting rid of Yellow #5, from high SPFs to homegrown organic vegetables, we are protecting our children's bodies. Fears of cancer, car accidents, and hormones in food keep us on our toes, always making sure we are being good parents by ensuring that nothing harmful enters or touches our children.

And it's probably a good thing (within reason). Parents rightfully see their responsibility to ensure that their children are physically taken care of. We should be willing to spend, do, and fight for more ways to protect the health and safety of children. Now that we know some of the causes of cancer, we can strive to avoid them. Now that we know what childhood obesity looks like, we can fight against it. We can work hard to protect our children's still-growing bodies.

But can I ask you a question? For all the protecting we are doing of their bodies, what are we doing to protect their hearts?

I am really struggling to understand why our generation – one that prides itself on protecting children's physical health and safety -- is doing so little to protect their emotional, mental, and spiritual safety. Where are the helmets for hearts?

No playing outside where it "isn't safe" but  the dangers of long hours of dribble on TV is overlooked.

Protecting skin with sun hats, swim shirts, and SPF 100 but showing off skin with 30% of kids clothing in stores being considered "sexy" is okay.

Helmets and knee pads for skating and bike riding but parents aren't willing to put down their smart phones long enough to do these activities with their kids.

Pounding from dodgeball is out but being pounded with sexual laden advertising isn't a concern.

Practice for escaping fires, earthquakes, and tornadoes but kids have no clue how to escape negative peer influence.

No MSG, added sugar, or preservatives but no one is looking to see what is in their library books.

No talking to strangers (or your neighbors, for that matter) on the street but talking to strangers in a chat room goes unnoticed.

Do you see a problem?

We are spending time, money, and energy on protecting bodies but almost no energy on protecting hearts. We are happy to let them watch junk on TV (and most “kid” programs are pure junk) if it means they won't be bothering us or tell us they are bored. We are happy to let them play with almost anyone as long as the playtime gives us a few hours of peace. We let them play on their portable gaming devices for hours on end but don't care how they treat their siblings. We sign them up for every activity known to man so that we don't have to think about how to actually enjoy just being with them. We tell them how to protect their bodies but we do nothing about teaching them to protect their hearts.

The problem isn't with protecting bodies. That is a good thing. The problem is that we don't spend a fraction of the time on emotional and spiritual protection as we do on the physical. Did you know that according to one study, kids spend an average of 1,680 minutes a week watching TV and only 3.5 minutes a week engaged in meaningful conversation with their parents. Is this is what parenting has become?

Tell me which more important: The body or the soul?

 “...for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 "Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28

Protecting the bodies of our children is not wrong. It is right. Protecting their hearts and souls is even more right. Let's do both.

 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2

And if you can't, choose their hearts.

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