Despite the depressing picture of buildings set alight recently by wayward young people in some of our large towns and cities the past week has seen the ‘A’ Level results celebrating the achievements and aspirations of a generation of focussed and intelligent youngsters. We may continue to be appalled by the wanton idiocy of rioters who, in the mind of some of us, receive a disproportionate amount of publicity over and against the remarkable dedication of young people working in the voluntary sector, to say nothing of those developing intellectual and practical skills for the benefit of humanity. Sad to say, only a few of these truly wonderful examples come to the attention of the world at large. Yet the good news is that in every century humanity has the capacity of developing far more good than bad, and far more creativity than destruction. In literature, in art and music each new generation brings us insights, fascination and wonder. But that is also true in areas of science and discovery delivering advancements in medicine and technology on what amounts to a daily basis. Alongside these developments there are depressing scenes—some of which threaten to drive us back into a type of ‘dark ages’ of constant warfare and destruction. But we cannot allow such a scenario to raise its ugly head, and the forces of good and generosity have to stand firm. Neither will it do to describe destructive activity as youthful exuberance—the burning down of people’s homes and businesses is shameful and unacceptable in any society. Nor should we assume that our political leaders possess, by right, some moral high ground. Surely, society needs constantly to look at the ways in which it cares for the needy and provides for our young people, to say nothing of respecting and loving a generation of older and older people.
There are no easy solutions. But the endeavour of human beings, whether young or not-so-young, serves to strengthen our communities and enrich our humanity. Christians look to the founder of their faith and the Saviour of the world who not only called us to be salt to the world, and to be light in the face of gloom and darkness, but who showed over and over again that grabbing and hoarding reduces us to a depraved and ugly state of sub-humanity. But when we embrace his example of sacrifice and love we enrich the course of humanity amazingly—going the extra mile, embracing the old, the young, the sick and the poor, giving one’s shirt as well as one’s coat. This is what human beings are called to be. This, too, is what our young focussed people show over and over again that they are capable of doing. In their successes we rejoice. But may they continue that success not by greed and possession, but by dedication, fulfilment and sharing. That will be their real blessing—and it will turn out to be ours, as well.
Fr Jeremy Winston