By Steve Graf
Once again, we’re going to venture away from the world of fishing and talk about what our youth of today need the most. A few weeks ago, while listening to a Sunday morning sermon on “life’s temptations” at the Natchitoches First United Methodist Church, our pastor, Gary Willis, asked the congregation a question. “If you knew you could get away with it and no one would find out, what would you do?” Now this question really intrigued me for some odd reason, and of course, my mind immediately went to something sinister…like stealing, cheating in a tournament, or even worse causing physical harm to someone who’s given me grief in the past. We all have enemies that we would like to inflict pain upon at some point in our lives, but 95% of us never act on any of these sinful ideas.
Then my mind went in another direction. What if I could do something good for someone and not reveal to them it was me who did the good deed? Nothing says more about a person who does good things for others and never wants the credit. Examples of a good deed could be something simple like buying someone’s lunch or dinner, paying for another person’s gas or groceries, or maybe assisting the elderly. But then it hit me! The best thing you can do for anyone is to give of your time. This could be taking a kid fishing and teaching them the tricks of the trade and helping them to become a better angler, or doing fishing seminars for high school and college youngsters by educating them on the unwritten rules of tournament bass fishing.
So many youngsters today are growing up without the guidance of both parents. Boys and girls today are missing the male leadership necessary for them to grow into strong productive citizens. While I have nothing but admiration for the single moms and dads who are doing their best to raise this generation, the lack of having both parent’s influence and perspective has affected the devolvement of our young people. Nothing has a bigger impact on a young boy than a relationship with their dad. In the 1990’s the divorce rate started to skyrocket and so many men walked away from their families, leaving young boys looking for a path on their own on how to become a man. This trend has only gotten worse over the last twenty years. We’ve basically lost a whole generation of men who no longer understand their role as a father and how important it is for the self-esteem and development of a boy or girl.
Temptations for today’s youth are staggering and totally different than my generation. During my youth growing up in the 70s, we had landlines, not cell phones, and although alcohol was available, most just drank beer. Hard alcohol was not the choice of the majority. The hardest drug that was prevalent was marijuana, with speed and cocaine use on the rise by the end of the decade. Today’s drugs are so potent that one small pill might kill you! Drugs like crystal meth, cocaine, and opioids (specifically fentanyl), along with hard alcohol, social media, cell phones, and peer pressure are just a few of the temptations this generation of kids is facing.
Kids today are addicted to their phones and are constantly waiting for the “ding” to alert them about the latest incident or derogatory statement that was made about someone. Nothing has been worse for the youth of today than the invention of the cell phone, and no one is to blame but parents themselves. From this angler’s perspective, no child should be allowed to have a cell phone until they reach high school, and even then, they do not need access to social media until the drinking age of 21. I’ve seen that a bill has been proposed in a few states requiring that a person be 16 years of age to be on social media. This is a good start, but the age should be higher.
In today’s world, the temptations our youth face are tremendous. It’s important that we exposed this generation to God’s great outdoors. There’s an old saying…” Kids that hunt and fish, don’t deal and steal.” What a profound statement! Whoever said it, deserves a medal! So many of life’s lessons can be learned through the outdoors like hard work, dedication, and commitment. Other lessons they’ll learn are conservation, wildlife management, survival skills, and how to provide for themselves if times get tough.
Whether it’s hunting or fishing, it gives youngsters something to focus on besides all the negative temptations they face daily. Whether it’s related to the outdoors or a particular sport, kids today need hobbies to occupy their time. They need goals that are attainable that will encourage them to pursue their dreams. Bottom line, take the time to introduce a kid to the great outdoors…it just might save their life!
Till next week, good luck, good fishing, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen and good protective clothing. Don’t be that guy who thinks they will never get Melanoma…because I was that guy.