Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2001

Passage of time provides valuable lesson

March 29, 2001

It's time once again to spring forward.

On Sunday, we set our clocks forward one hour. We lose an hour of sleep, but we gain an hour of sunlight at the end of the day. All in all, it's a pretty good trade.

The pending change in time got me to thinking about when I was younger. Growing up, daylight savings time always confused me. Were we actually losing an hour?

Concepts of time are difficult for young people. One of the greatest lessons I've ever learned in life had to do with time.

Growing up in a day before cable television made its way into our lives, Saturday morning cartoons were an event. We didn't have the luxury of the Disney Channel or the Cartoon Network.

I remember one Saturday morning, I was engrossed in the antics of Foghorn Leghorn, a particular favorite of mine. About the time Foghorn was winning the trust of the chicken hawk, my mother came flying through the room. We had a pending engagement that she apparently thought was more important than what I'm sure would have been the hilarious outcome of Foghorn's dilemma.

No problem, I thought. I would turn off the television and finish watching when I got home later that afternoon.

You can imagine my disappointment when I got home, turned on the television and found not my animated friends, but a football game.

After a few minutes of confusion, it hit me: time goes on, even when I'm not there to witness it.

I must have been four or five years old at the time and I don't think my parents could have explained that concept to me. It was something I had to experience first-hand.

It's one of my earliest memories. The world never looked the same to me after that. Much to my disappointment, I realized I was not the center of the universe.

From that realization, I came to understand how my actions affected others. The people around me were not merely extras in the movie that was my life; they were living their lives independently of me.

As an adult, I can appreciate the significance of that lesson. There's nothing wrong with a self-centered three-year-old. When you're three years old, your world is pretty small. Other than costing his or her parents a few hours sleep at night, there's not much damage a three-year-old can do.

It's when that three-year-old enters the teen and adult years and still has no concept of others that there's a problem.

I'm not one of those people who believe today's kids are rotten. To the contrary, I believe kids today are brighter and more full of promise than ever before. However, there does seem to be a growing lack of concern for how the actions of one can affect the whole.

There has been much written about the recent incidents of school violence. Psychologists, members of the media and educators have been quick to blame everything from violent video games to poor parenting. Obviously it's a complicated issue, and I certainly don't have the answer.

But I think if we break it down to its most basic element, what we're seeing from these young people is a lack of empathy. According to the dictionary, empathy is "the identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, etc. of another."

Those who express their personal rage through acts of violence are obviously not thinking about how those acts will destroy the lives of others.

I'm not sure how you teach empathy and I'm not sure why some people develop it and some don't.

Perhaps in a time when technology such as video recorders, cell phones and computers does allow the world to wait for us, we need to better guide our children through the passages of life we once took for granted.

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