DIGGING FOR APPLES
A part in Alice in Wonderland that I hadn’t heard or read before was when the Rabbit mistook Alice for his housemaid and tells her to run home to his house and bring him back his gloves. Taken off guard, Alice obeys running off in the direction of the rabbit’s home. She finds a bottle of potion in his room and is naturally curious. This bottle doesn’t say DRINK ME, but she seems to be getting the hang of Wonderland and drinks much of the liquid immediately. She grows so large that she takes up his entire room.
At this point the inpatient rabbit comes along looking for his gloves, though he cannot enter his room because Alice’s girth is blocking his door. The determined Rabbit decides to go in through the window, but Alice must have been getting a little uncomfortable with his hostile behavior because she puts her enormous arm out the window to stop him. She knocks him off of the windowsill and he falls into a cucmber frame below where his friend Pat asks him if he is digging for apples. He replies, “Digging for apples, indeed!”
He angrily rallies his friends together for aid in getting back into his room. He sends one friend down the chimney. Alice kicks him back up the chimney and sends him flying through the air to the horror of the assembly of Rabbit’s friends. The next thing you know, all of the little creatures are conspiring to force Alice from Rabbits house. Their first idea is to burn it down. They are afraid of this creature that is so big and strong. They start throwing rocks at her through the window which magically turn into cakes which when she eats makes her shrink once again. She is able to escape the scene in her smaller size.
Like Alice, many young creatives receive such a reception among their peers that only see them as different. These unwelcoming reactions can force these youth into isolation whether that is self-imposed or insisted upon by other youth. With the increase of events of children in the U.S. acting out and/or being bullied with what seems little or no recourse, many people have begun to discuss the social isolation that many youth are experiencing and the ramifications of that that ongoing experience.
When considering this subject, we did not want to focus on only the negative experiences that youth are facing. We also wanted to take it to the next level to find out what we need to do in order to support the youth to thrive. We asked you the question, “How can we help creative youth recognize thier valuable worth in our society?
Christine Wiley said, “Make sure their skills and talents are included in the options for schooling – my daughter attended a learning through the arts school for middle school and now attends a high school which allows half a day for academics and half dedicated to the student’s choice of creative field. We are fortunate that the school board offers this program in our city and it is open to everyone as a public school program. All she had to do was demonstrate a passion for her field, and show what she has worked on so far. For all of the programs that focus on academics and sports, there should also be programs to cater to the arts. This program validates creative work as a legitimate pursuit with tangible future prospects. All of the teachers have worked as professionals in the field they teach and help the students prepare for the work in addition to honing their skills. In addition, she has met a large number of other creative people who can identify with the unique challenges of creative minds which can lead to feeling different and isolation.”
Cristi Wright pointed out that in many cases the middle aged and elderly have time and energy that could be used to connect with the youth. She felt that the youth would respond postivily to activites together.
Agreeing with Cristi’s comment, Rick Busch added, “So much wisdom and great stories and testimonies come from the elderly. Any chance that I have ever had to spend time with the elderly was very enthusiastically welcomed by me. I pray that this does start to happen more with our youth.”
Cindy and I also discussed the issue.
Cindy: The social and spiritual realities in society are currently deficient and are causing mental illness to flourish, causing a deep sense of isolation among many families, and especially youth.
Michelle: I believe among many factors that can exaserbate phsycological dysfunction, the effects of social isolation can be especially determental.
Cindy: Yes, there is an intense social isolation. I recently talked with some Americans that were here visiting in Guatemala, and they mentioned how people wouldn’t strike up a random conversation in the U.S. This sort of thing wouldn’t happen there, people wouldn’t even notice you.
Michelle: I believe non-reality based social interactions are a big problem as well (fantasy in the place of actual relationships).
Cindy: There is such a big sense of “I” and “Me” in western cultures. When I studied sociology in the US, I remember that we were taught the differences in media conceptualization between western cultures and third world countries. Advertising companies will sell things by saying “This product will make YOU independent, sexy, attractive, stronger, etc.”, whereas in Latin America or Asia…in order to sell things, the media will say “Do this for your family, for others, etc.” A sense of belonging and family is a huge social factor in other parts of the world. You don’t feel as alone.
Michelle: Yes, independence is very heavily sought after.
Cindy: Children are made to believe that their purpose in life is to concentrate on a “ME” philosophy. They grow up believing that they need to focus on their own independence and happiness. By isolating themselves from family, they can achieve all of their dreams and aspirations. But what really happens? This rupture, this breaking away from “WE” to “ME” only heightens a sense of loneliness, and a belief that we can only really depend on ourselves.
Michelle: Very true!
Cindy: YES, I remember going to school in Georgia, and not being able to relate to other kids. There weren’t talks about REAL issues or problems kids are facing at home. There was no help unless you sent kids off to therapists. There are many broken homes that are raising children who are more sensitive and vulnerable to this feeling of disconnect and loneliness.
Sometimes, kids just want intimacy. They want to feel cared about and not just by parents. They want to feel that if their dad just lost their job and their parents are fighting, that they aren’t alone.
Michelle: The schools seem reluctant to take on this type of responsibility. Perhaps they aren’t equipt. This may have been something that church used to fill. A lot of families that are going through really tough times are single and split families.
Cindy: Exactly. People aren’t meant to live like cats. We must live in society. We need to rely on each other. Mother Teresa said that there is more hunger for love than bread in this world.
Michelle: Very true.
Cindy: People are starved for that feeling of belonging, warmth, and genuine affection.
As a society, “we” have worked hard to create a place for independence to flourish, and indpendence never comes without the help of others. If our society has become too “me” focused, it is time to open up our view to a “we” perspective. We must take responsiblity for our communities and we need lots of help to make good things happen. Just as the clever Alice flees to a safer place where she does not feel under immediate threat, we must also have safe havens for our own children/youth. Youth is a time for learning, growing, and sometimes shrinking. Our youth are naturally creative and long to express that freely, yet they also require accpetance and intimacy from real people-to-people interactions. The task is ours to meet their needs-our most vulnerable part of society.
“The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty — it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”
― Mother Teresa