“What can we do to get along?” This question was asked of the children attending summer camp at St. Francis Community Services. Their answers reflect the impact of growing up amid violence.
This summer, 76 children and teens romped through Summer Academy Day Camp. They experienced 29 days of fun. Campers attended seven hours of learning through play every day.
In the first week’s teaching time, day campers were asked what they could do to get along during the summer. There were a number of thoughtful responses. One of the children even suggested we consider “forgiveness.”
Staff asked if this meant we should give someone a chance to apologize before responding to a bump in line. Or if someone hits us or calls us names, should we find an adult to help? Children had very interesting responses to potential conflict.
More than ever before, the majority of children answered, “We have to hit them back.” No matter the circumstance suggested, the children said a bump required a hit, a hit an even harder hit. When asked how this related to the idea of forgiveness, the children said only that they could not allow someone to take advantage of them.
Many children say their parents tell them to fight back. When children come to us, their parents are asking us to provide alternatives to what happens at school or on the street. One of these alternatives is to work with children to find options other than fighting and realize some children do not fight.
We are experiencing a plague of violence in our community. People ask how we can stop this. One answer might be to help our children find ways to deal with conflict that do not include an escalation of violence. Violence begets violence. Only love changes things! If we love Jesus, we MUST forgive our neighbors!