As the tree is bent…

Image“We need more security guards, more police protection.” “There should be more punishment for offenders.” “The police department is too corrupt.”

So many comments, solutions offered for the problems of crime that we live with daily in Guatemala. It has gotten to the point that I rarely bother to read the local newspaper any more; page after page of murder, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, rape. Perhaps in your city it isn’t much different. (I hope yours is different.)

And the solutions? Mostly band-aids, putting out fires, struggling to keep our heads above water and survive the onslaught of violence outside our door. For many, even inside their door.

The overcrowded prisons are just a breeding ground for more violence. “UC”: University of crime. If those convicted can’t pay the amount specified to avoid imprisonment, they return to society much worse than before. Obviously this is not a solution.

But these criminals are human beings, made in the likeness of God. What happened to them? When did it happen? How can we stop focusing so much on putting out fires and do something to prevent them?

I have an idea. I’m sure it isn’t original but it is possible.

A child is born as a blank page. What is to be written on their heart and mind is determined by their family, school and society. At what age does a boy become a criminal? At what stage of life does a girl turn into a kidnapper? These changes are not conscious decisions made when a person is grown, but a result of their experiences from birth on. “As the tree is bent, so grows the twig.”

I know that this is no great revelation. It seems to me more like common sense. But I do have a proposition to do something about it.

I am working on an idea, a way to instill scriptural character and values into homes, schools, and day care centers. Scriptural concepts are powerful whether or not the chapter and verse are quoted. These concepts can be packaged in a way that we can share them not only with children, but also teachers, parents, grandparents and other caregivers. Here, most schools would be open to this type of help. We can work to convince those responsible for children’s development to promote that which will develop good character and values, and avoid the negative influences that are so prevalent in the media. Academic study is not enough.

This will not be a fast or easy process, but an investment of time and energy is necessary to make a better future. I believe we can plant seeds that over the next generation will bear fruit. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. (Matt. 5:9)


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