There is no doubt that we are living in rough financial times. When big businesses were bailed out, the average American was left to fend for himself. Struggling to maintain home, work and health these days seems almost impossible for most people. Nightly dinner conversations (if families even have time or resources to sit down for a decent meal) are about cutting costs and stretching dollars. Parents are re-figuring their budgets just to make sure there’s enough money to get back and forth to work and keep everything going. As government tries to agree upon budgets, local community people sit and pray that their taxes won’t be raised because, honestly, they can barely afford to pay this year’s (and some haven’t even paid last year’s yet.)
Even the most liberal thinkers get pretty conservative when it comes to figuring out how they’re going to survive what feels like the next “great depression.” So what happens? People start putting things into priorities, and everything that seems like “extras” gets cut down or even out of the budget. In homes that means no more fresh fruit, snacks or steaks. Parents work longer hours and vacations are canceled. In state and federal government, cuts are made in funds for afterschool programs, college financial aid and summer employment for young people (amongst a whole lot of other needed programs and services). Local communities and school districts try to balance their budgets by eliminating music, sports and recreational programs. And who really feels the pain of the struggle? Kids like me who really do want to do something positive and stay out of trouble.
We suffer today because too many adults don’t feel like we’re worth the investment in time, energy or resources. Too many forget about all the supports they had as children. Television and movies might have the world thinking that teenagers are all reckless and irresponsible when it comes to sex and drugs and alcohol, but that’s not the real picture.
We need more than technology; we need opportunities to develop and showcase strengths and talents. Lots of us just want to laugh and play and learn new things. We want to sing and dance, draw and paint, swim and compete. We need adults to teach us the how-to’s and the rules of the games; we need places to get together and share good times. These kinds of activities aren’t “extras;” they are the foundation of what makes young people grow into healthy, successful adults.
These days as people sit and prioritize, they need to understand what happens when investments aren’t made. When programs are cut back or eliminated so are kids’ chances for future success. Yes, times are rough, but the future will be even rougher if an investment (in my generation) isn’t made today. It’s a tough choice to make: pay now or pay later?