We were all sitting together in the high school gym. The students had been working for months on rewriting Shakespeare's classic, "Othello," and the opening scene had just occurred.
A sweet young sophomore had delivered her lines in rhyme so nicely that we all pretty much ignored the content: She was telling us that we didn't really know our kids. Of course we do, we all smiled benignly at each other; our kids are perfect, angelic, models of good behavior. Not like some kids.
I turned around and glanced at my teenage son, Mickey, sitting in the back at the top of the bleachers with his buddy from the track team. They were laughing happily at some private joke. Then the next scene began.
We watched in horror as the play continued. Although well written and including everything Shakespeare would have liked (the alienation and death of an outsider, betrayal and intrigue, the murder of an innocent girl; plus some modern additions such as constant alcohol and drug use, gender confusion, promiscuity, and date rape), it was a chilling view of what our kids are facing. For several days afterward, we parents would meet each other on the street and mumble, "Is that what it's like for our kids?"
I realized that we have a spiritual responsibility here, not just toward our kids but toward all kids. But what can we do that will really help?
An account in the Bible, a narration of events in the Apostle Paul's visit to Troas, has been significant to me. One night, Paul had been preaching for several hours. One of those listening was a young man named Eutychus. We know nothing about him except that he had been sitting way up in the back (perhaps like Mickey, with a buddy), and he became drowsy. He fell from the third loft and apparently died.
In thinking about our response to any problem, I find it useful to look at the process here. Paul immediately turned to the crisis at hand. In a few words, the Bible says, "And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him" (Acts 20:10). The J.B. Phillips translation has it that Paul "flung himself beside him," holding him "gently."
Paul directed his whole and immediate attention to the young man. He stopped talking and went down to where the body lay.
I appreciate the immediacy of Paul's focused action and brotherly love. What's totally unexpected, however, is Paul's confident declaration that Eutychus was all right. And he was - the account continues, "They brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted." Paul, satisfied that all was well, had already gone back to his work and preached until dawn.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote of the value of such focused prayer in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "One moment of divine consciousness, or the spiritual understanding of Life and Love, is a foretaste of eternity" (page 598). She then listed the benefits, which include the striking words, "... and man would be in the full consciousness of his immortality and eternal harmony, where sin, sickness, and death are unknown."
Paul must have been in that mental state Mrs. Eddy described. He must have seen the young man's spiritual perfection so clearly that healing occurred instantly. His "one moment" benefited the whole community.
Prayer on the Paul/Eutychus model can address the needs of kids at risk, I believe. I now see that high school play as a cry for help from kids who felt they were about to fall, to have short and meaningless lives, to find only disaster awaiting them. I realized that I could pray to become more conscious of God's great immediate love for us all. Nobody is left out.
As a result, I found I was cherishing my own kids more. I started talking to Mickey's teammates at track and field events and offered encouragement when they confided in me. Mickey and I became closer. And I learned that it is a continuing process to keep that "one moment" of prayer and develop it in practical living.