There was a young Student Pastor, named Blake Jorem. And he had an idea for a student summer trip. Blake gathered all the parents for a special meeting to discuss the trip and go over the details. His plan was simple, he thought. He would take the students from Church of the Biblical Community on a trip to New York City. The trip’s purpose was to give the students, 6th-12th grade, a chance to experience different cultures, visit Rockefeller Plaza and Broadway, see the Statue of Liberty and Central Park, to eat exotic foods and ride the exotic smelling subway.
The trip would be perfect. Every pre-teen and teenager had lamented to anyone who would listen that they hadn’t had a chance to see the Big Apple like all their other friends. Blake thought this trip would be a no-brainer, homerun for the parents. Their kids would get to be included in what all the other kids were doing, it would be a learning experience, and it would afford the parents a break from their children for a while. It would be perfect.
So, the meeting was had, the idea was out there, and it was now time for questions from the parents.
Many of the parents sat quietly for a few moments, letting the announcement of this trip wash over them like the smell of a foreign, open-air market.
And there came a man whose bewilderment could not be squelched any longer.
“Blake”, he said “this trip sounds like it would be fun. How many students are you hoping to take?”
“As many as want to come. I hope over 40.” Blake explained.
“How many chaperones are you thinking about taking?” another Mom quickly asked from the back.
“Chaperones? I hadn’t planned on taking any chaperones. This is a trip that will allow your students to find their own way through New York City.” Blake explained a little puzzled by the question.
“Their own way!” exclaimed several parents in unison.
“Their own way. We are talking about New York City. There is no way I am letting my 6th grade daughter finds her ‘own way’ through a city like that,” said one of the father’s whose calm, but wavering tone was not enough to hide the now bulging vein from his forehead.
Blake could see things had made a turn in a direction he hadn’t fully anticipated. “Listen, Listen,” he explained while trying to quiet the talking amongst the parents.
“I think I have a pretty good idea about the heart and state of your students. We will have a list of all the good places they should go and only those places. We will need to trust our students to make the best decisions. These students need the opportunity to prove they can handle something like this. Other children are doing the same thing. If we don’t give them this opportunity now, don’t you think they will feel deprived later? We have kept the cost of this trip low, so it won’t cost you that much. AND, this trip is sure to keep your children entertained.”
One of the parents had finally had enough. Allen Martin stood up from the back and began to speak calmly, yet resolutely;
“Trust. This is not an issue of trust. This is an issue of parental protection and care. I agree with you that there are many great things to see in a city like New York. But to send my child out into a city like that without me with her would be dangerous and confusing. Yes, it’s first and foremost about protection. There are dangerous places in New York City. There are things that happen in that city that a child cannot un-see. There are things that could happen to her or him that could shape them for the rest of their life. I, frankly, don’t care if every parent in this room thinks it’s okay to send their child to NYC alone. It’s not happening in my house. So, one of my goals as a parent is to protect my child from things I know to be unsafe. New York City has a host of amazing things to see and do. But the rewards are not worth the risks, sending my child there alone with only their peers.
It’s not only about protection, it’s also about interpretation. My child is still growing, still learning, and still figuring out the world. They don’t just need protection from things. They need an adult to help interpret what they are seeing and doing. How are they to know the significance of a place like the Statue of Liberty or the 9.11 Memorial site? They can’t do that on their own. They need us as parents to help them, whether they are 6 or 16. And lastly, they need a mentor to guide them through what an experience like that means for them, at their age and for their own context. I want my child to understand that while NYC is an amazing city, it is also expensive. What if they come back to Low Point, South Carolina believing the false narrative that their life here is boring and mundane in comparison to a life in NYC. That would set them up for a lot of failure and grumbling.
When my oldest daughter learned to drive she learned in stages and is still doing so. She had to study the rules of the road, she had to pass a test, she had to drive only with an adult that could teach her, she had to pass another test, and only then was she able to drive herself, and even then, she had restrictions put on her from the state and from us. It took her several years before she was able to drive by herself. We didn’t just take her to the interstate and turn her loose.
So, Blake, after all that I have said, what makes you think that us parents would go for a trip like this where you left our children alone in a place like New York City?”
Blake stood there for a moment, taking it all in and then simply said,
“I didn’t think any of you would have a problem with this trip after observing the way our students are allowed to use the internet, their smartphones, or social media.”
To be continued…