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Sunday Edition: Family Matters

Education / Featured / Sunday Edition / Virgin Islands / February 8, 2015

This is a very different time than 1972. There was no iPhone 6 Plus, Keeping up with the Kardashians, BET, MTV, VH1, or even ATM cards.

If someone said ‘pink’ or ‘maroon 5,’ they were talking about colors not rock stars. If someone said ‘cloud,’ they were talking about a visible mass of condensed water vapor floating in the sky, not a reliable infrastructure that allows us to store, access, and manage data easily. If someone said ‘kindle,’ they were talking about arousing an emotion or feeling, not a touch screen e-Reader.

A striking difference between this time and 43 years ago is that there were very different views of our social institutions, and of our individual and collective roles in society. In many ways, 1972 seems separated from us by hundreds of years. It was a time of great passion and hope, and also a time of great social dislocation. Some conventions were dying out while others were being born. Today, we are sailing in the wake of that social and cultural tidal wave.

If we analyze even our most basic institution, the family, we can see crystal-clear changes. If it ever did, it is no longer composed of two parents, two children, a dog, a house, and a station wagon. Today, we have families that include test tube babies, surrogate mothers, and Gay, Bisexual, Lesbian and Transgender parents (GBLT). Instead of church on Sunday mornings and Sunday evening family dinners, we now have microwaves, Peapod online grocery shopping and delivery, three-way calls, email, cross-country conference calls, Skype, Face Time, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Netflix, and cyber sex.

Instead of aunts, uncles, cousins, grandpas and grandmas, we have nannies and day care centers. Instead of the nuclear family, we have single-parent families, foster families, step families from multiple marriages, and same-sex matrimony.

The family remains the essential ingredient in shaping our lives. Children need the intangible bonds of love and support that only caring parents, and caring adults, can provide. Family values alone cannot feed a hungry child, and material security alone cannot provide a moral compass. Both are needed. How do we fill our privileged children, who, like many poor children, are longing for a sense of purpose things cannot meet?

As we ponder the future, whether we are baby boomers or from generation, X, Y, Z, or generation Next, let us make a mark by constructing the unique balance between family, spiritual anchors, work, worthwhile goals, charity, service to mankind, and faith.

Build on the strong tradition of family, and teach our children to delay family formation until they are ready to raise the new generation of children and leaders. Strengthen family rituals. Prayers if we are religious, and if not, regular family meals and gatherings.

We got here on the sweat, toil, prayers, dreams, sacrifice and caring of our families, friends and forebears, some of whose names we will never know. Now we are going to have to sweat, toil and pray to get the next generation of Virgin Islanders where we are today by taking a vested interest in their school work and non-school activities, and by giving them constructive alternatives to the street.

Do things with them. Watch their games, plays and concerts, and soothe over their bad nightmares. Explain to them that in order to widen their intellectual horizons, they should look in other directions. If they are literary, let them acquaint themselves with basic elements of scientific thinking; and if they enjoy science, do not let them fail to explore the humanities.

Take them to the Florence Williams Library and if you are able to afford it, subscribe to say, The Scientific American Journal and the New York Review of Books. Information about ideas can be made interesting and even practically more valuable than information about facts, and even passing current events.

To widen their horizon, tell them to look not only forward but also sideways and backwards, and most importantly, listen to them. Be moral examples to them. Children need heroes and role models with integrity who struggle to live what they preach and admit it when they make mistakes.

I would have been devastated as a child to find that my parents, teachers and priests, were not who I believed them to be and that they told me one thing and did another. Adult hypocrisy is a major cause of family, community and moral disintegration. Our children are confused because we adults are confused about right and wrong. If we spend all of our money on our backs, wheels, and vacations, and tithe no portion of it to the University of the Virgin Islands, United Way, Women’s Coalition, Boys & Girls Club, Queen Louise Home For Children, Junior Achievement, Red Cross, Children’s Defense Fund, churches and hospitals in the territory, and other civic causes, our children won’t either.

Become profoundly and doggedly counter cultural. Reject our culture’s glorification of violence, excessive materialism and instant gratification. We must know and teach children the difference between heroism and celebrity, not to confuse money with meaning, educational degrees with wisdom, and common sense or power with worthwhile purpose. Stress what someone has said: “The hero is known for achievements, the celebrity for being well known. Celebrities make the news, heroes make history. Time makes heroes, time dissolves celebrities.”

Join together as a community to establish an ethic of achievement and self-esteem. Encourage science and math, as well as basketball and soccer; calculus, as well as cotillions. Our children must hear from us over and over again what is true, that they can achieve, if we expect it of them and fight for the supports they need to accomplish their goals. It is the responsibility of every adult, parent, teacher, preacher and professional to make sure that children hear what we have learned from the lessons of life, and hear over and over and over again that we love them, and that they are not alone.


Image Credit: CDC

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Teri Helenese
In April 1994, Ebony magazine dubbed Teri Helenese a Rising Star. In 1997, the same magazine included her on its list of the Top 25 Accomplished Women. And in 1998, she was recognized by another well-known magazine, Cosmopolitan, as a Leader to Watch. In less than two decades, Teri Helenese has met and even surpassed these expectations. Her career has spanned executive functions across the private and public sectors. In every setting—from St. Croix to Washington, D.C. and from local to global enterprise—she has made lasting, impactful change and she continues to be a rain-maker and a changer-maker today. For Helenese's full bio, go here.

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Speed Bumps Being Installed At Cyril E. King Airport

The Virgin Islands Port Authority will begin installing speed bumps along designated areas within the Cyril E. King Airport...

February 8, 2015