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When Children Speak Does Anyone Listen?
By: Rabbi Shea Hecht
About the author

There I was, sitting in a home, with the special aura of candle light, having a Melave Malka - the meal in which we say good bye to the Shabbos and move into the new week.

 

Sitting with me was a crowd of young people. Although all that was visible in the candle light were the images and outlines of the people sitting around, the warmth and love in the room were palpable.

 

The singing of songs - in English - of unity and love and spirituality and peace, with each person putting their hand over the shoulder of the person next to them, created a sense of affection and belonging and being part of a greater whole. The legacy of love and unity that was passed down through the generations was felt by all the participants of this Saturday night gathering.

 

A hat was then passed around and everyone placed one anonymous question for discussion. The flickering lights covered the faces and made the voices a little disembodied as the questions were voiced.  "How do I express love?" "What connection is there between human beings?" "Is it that important, the details of serving G-d?" "If our ancestors did not bring Moshiach (Messiah) how could we?" "Does G-d listen when we pray?"

 

Mrs. Y., the hostess of our little party, had the right idea. If our kids are going to go out on a Saturday night, we should be there to create the party in-house.  A party with controlled drinking and where we control the atmosphere and the program, but the kids involved got to set the tone of the evening by expressing their questions and needs.

 

The experience that Saturday night was a beautiful one. And it left a deep impression on me. And also many questions.

 

Why did these children have so many unanswered questions - questions whose answers should have been so fundamental to them? Where were the adults in their lives that should have imparted the responses to these questions?

 

This highlighted a greater problem in communication with our children today: If the parents and educators of these children couldn't answer the questions that these kids had where were the rest of the adults in their life?

 

Do we listen to our young people? Do we talk to our youth?

 

The days of "children being seen but not heard" are supposedly over. Yes, young people are more outspoken, they are more verbal, but sometimes I wonder if that cliché is still true - since many of our children and young adults still feel unheard.

 

There is a lack of depth in many conversations between children and adults. How many parents know their children's favorite color? Favorite activity? Favorite person?

 

People are overwhelmed with life's responsibilities and many feel that they don't have time for their children. But we have to make time.

 

We must let our children know we care. We have to connect with our own offspring and with other children as well.

 

Yes, Mrs. Y. really did have the right idea. The oldest form of entertainment - that people used to create a feeling of warmth, security and continuity - is sitting around telling stories and singing songs. If we really listen to our children and try to communicate and connect that will let them know we care.


Rabbi Shea Hecht's website: www.sheahecht.com


 
   
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