Reflection: Social Development is a "Must"

by Father Don Thomas

For those of us who are quite elderly, this reflection may be coming too late to help us in some ways. However, in other ways it may still be of use to affirm some convictions that we have probably entertained, without putting them to use in our personal growth. In some ways, this reflection is not too late and we will strive to demonstrate that fact as we move along with this consideration on social development.

What I mean by that is we have to admit that while we cannot go back and re-live our youth and early adult life, we can still consider the future, and recognize that we can still do something about choices and relationships that will enhance the joy and richness of our future years. There are absolutely too many tragic mistakes being made in this area of social development, and this reflection is simply an effort to point out the errors and afford readers the opportunity to agree or disagree, and hopefully share some of these thoughts with those coming after us.

It is never too late to help our children, our grandchildren or the youth who must face the future. We can share with them a great deal of hope and wisdom. They will still have to make the decisions and choices that affect their happiness, but teaching them the importance and wisdom of social development will definitely help them avoid many of the mistakes that perhaps many of us have made in our lives. It is with that background that I endeavor to treat this important topic of social development.

In theory, I feel that most parents and adults working with youngsters want to see young boys and girls develop physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually. Much could be said and written about each one of these forms of development. Guidance and direction are needed with all four. With all four steps, I feel it is safe to say there is definitely a lot of negligence that contributes to much pain and sorrow in so many young lives.

Dealing with social development, I can look back to the 1960's as a time when drastic changes took place in our country. The Beatles from England and the sex revolution that took place turned our country upside down and it still has not recovered. Rather it has affected the lives of our young and old in a pejorative manner, leading to life-styles that have so many confused in their thinking, and weakened in their faith.

Prior to the '60's, you hardly heard anyone talk about sex. Everything was secretive and hush, hush. I will never forget how clever I thought I was when back in 1946, when I was 15 years old and my married sister, Lucille, had her first child. Going down to join a bunch of guys who were gathering to play baseball, I remember so clearly that I did not want to say, "my sister had a baby" because there was something sexual about that. Cleverly, I put it this way: "Hey, you guys, guess what! I'm an uncle.". In those days, boys and girls did not date seriously in high school but rather they seemed to get started at thet age of 18 or 19, getting married in their early twenties. From the '60's on, "going steady" came into vogue with couples 17 years, then 16, then 15 and 14, and nowadays 12 year olds are dating seriously, and this fact is what prompts me now to point out why this is not too wise.

"Going steady" at an early age really does interfere with social development. Let me explain. In talking with young people about "going shopping" instead of "going steady", these young people are quick to agree that when they go into a store to buy a dress, a camera, a TV set or a DVD—or anything else that costs money—just because someone points out that the dresses or guitars are over there in the corner, one does not go over and pick out the very first dress or jacket and drive all the way home, only to find out that the dress is too long, or too small or too tight. No, intelligent shoppers check out the entire rack and make comparisons and judgments, and may even end up going back to the very first dress or guitar.

That approach is intelligent and wise. Applying that principle to dating and developing socially, it is wiser to go out with different individuals, make comparisons, and perhaps even end up back with the very first boy or girl, but I do think such a person is wise and making better decisions and judgments. Young boys and girls "going steady" are very often victimized by jealousy, possessiveness, and exclusion of hanging around with other friends, no freedom to go to parties with other friends and on and on ... the boy frequently acts as if he owns the girl.

Soon the sexual attraction, which is very normal and natural, begins to express itself and "going steady" very easily enables that attraction to get out of hand, and all of a sudden many of these youngsters are acting like married couples. They want all the privileges of marriage but none of the responsibilities. They really do cheat themselves of much joy in their teenage years by depriving themselves of developing socially. This approach is what accounts for the fact that many of these couples end up dealing with pregnancies, and, of course, abortions provide the solution to their problems.

Most of the time these early marriages last no time at all, as the social development that should have taken place before marriage begins to take place after the marriage. They begin to notice others at work, at college, at social gatherings, and they start making comparisons that they should have made much earlier in their lives. They begin to notice that others are more attractive physically, intellectually, socially and financially, and break-ups and divorces become inevitable. Mix in all the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and it is quite obvious why so many of these marriages fail. It would have been so much wiser to go out with different persons, taking note of qualities and traits that would be most desirable in a life-long partner. One may end up going back to the first "date", but there can be little doubt that intelligent social development will usually lead one to more mature and responsible decisions.

In conclusion, let me say that at the beginning of this reflection, we referred to elderly people, and just in a general way I want to say that instead of becoming "loners", continue to develop socially by mixing with others, and do not just sit around in a rocker waiting to depart this life. Older people are very wise and have much to offer, and it might be compared to a ministry if older people would do a lot of sharing and social mixing, at least occasionally. There are arts and crafts, card games, chess and checkers, quilting and sewing clubs, songfests and many other activities that can provide entertainment and opportunities to mix with others. From this reflection, therefore, let us be convinced that social development is important for the young and the elderly.

 

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