The 1940's classic film, "Angels with Dirty Faces," starring James Cagney, depicts a young orphan who was constantly told he would amount to nothing but a common criminal. Sure enough, he fulfilled their prophecy, becoming one of Prohibition's most hardened gangsters.
When children are told that they must become something -- they usually do! Society, however, has put such a heavy emphasis on "being somebody" that many children will gravitate to the easiest common denominator, which is... to be nobody!
Why is this? Could it be our man-made rules and meters cause the youth to either achieve success with wrong motives or just drop out altogether?
Honor roll. This is a term I often heard in school, but was about as familiar with as learning to tap dance. I was told that only certain kids could ever achieve the honor roll or become an "Honor Student" and I wasn't one of them! Then, Shazam! My name was at the top of the "Troubled Kid Roll."
Last week I attended my children's honor roll ceremony and luncheon at school. What a wonderful gala celebrating all those children who made the grade. But as I looked around for my youngest child, she was not there. So I asked my wife where she was. My wife lowered her eyes and replied in a solemn voice, "she didn't make it. She's eating her box lunch with the rest down the hall."
I immediately made my way down the hall and into a bland room where she sat with five other students. Trying to hide my uncomfortable disposition, I said "Hey kiddos, I came down here to eat with you!"
One of the children replied, "You mean that you came to eat with the dummies!"
I felt my broken heart shatter even more as I looked at my daughter who said, "I missed it by one point, Dad."
I tried to comfort them by explaining that most of the truly successful people, including most presidents, millionaires and spiritual leaders never made the "honor roll," and that they shouldn't think of themselves as "dummies."
I'll bet, if we started out telling our children that they are automatically on an "honored roll" (without taking a man-made test), then most students would stay on it and become "honor students." If we continue to lay these so-called "good intentions" on our youth, however, then we will surely continue to reap the consequences.
Ultimately the only "roll" I strive to be on is the one that's called up yonder. God sets my curriculum, never making it more difficult than I am able to achieve. He never compares me to others. Perhaps we could model our honor roll system to that of heaven. Where grace abounds, you will never find an "angel with a dirty face."
DAVID HEAVENER lives in Tehachapi.