AN OPEN LETTER TO PARENTS AND TO MECHANCHIM/CHOS:
I was walking home from work in Crown Heights the other day behind 4 yingelach. One of them took a snack out of his bag and threw the bag on the ground.
I told him gently to pick it up. He apologized to me for what he had done, so I tried as gently as I could, to explain to him and to his chums why this action was a Chilul Hashem (our non-Jewish neighbors were in view).
He responded that they didn’t see it.
I replied that Hashem saw it.
His friends thought that the comment was funny and proceeded to mimic me as I walked in front of them.
Kids are kids, and kids can be insensitive, but that is not the issue that concerns me. What pains me is that these children had no inkling of what precious souls they are and as such, they have the potential to be a light unto the nations.
I wondered, should I speak to their parents, as I recognized two of them? Should I call their school? I don’t want them punished. I want them to be reached. I want them to understand how special they are and that they have to understand why proper behavior is so important.
I ran into a Rebbi from their Yeshiva and we had a conversation. I related what troubled me and we agreed that only through demonstrating our love and respect for our kids/students, can we be successful in reaching them.
Mussar/threats of punishment and intimidation don’t work. I did speak to one of the parents of one of the little boys and she related that the kids are often threatened with punishment when they don’t toe the line…
Teachers, Rebbis, Mechanchos: with all of the kinuses that you are holding, don’t you get the message?
The streets are filled with kids “off the derech.”
Kids who will tell you if you take the time to speak to them respectfully, that they were taunted, or were subject to the following statements: “You will never amount to anything,” or “You will have to prove yourself” (uttered in public in front of other kids/teachers).
They have been subjected to taunts about their appearance by other kids, if they were not dressed in the latest fashions, so as this mother explained to me, kids develop a macho attitude in order to defend themselves and they will demonstrate it when they feel threatened by an authority figure.
I understand all of that, but the question remains: How do we reach our kids? How do we show them how precious they are to us and to Hashem, if we fail to show them how much they mean to us?
Are we dugma chayas in our behavior 24/7? Or do we teach them from 9-4 only as a means of making a living until something more lucrative comes along?
Kids are too smart not to sense that they are merely being tolerated.
What about our appearance? Do we dress properly at all times, or do the ladies exchange their sheitels for tichels when we walk on the Avenue?
Do we keep confidences if a child chooses to open up about a pressing problem or is a child’s concern fodder for office gossip? I still remember calling a school and being put on hold, but the button didn’t hold and I heard everything. When I suggested that the hold button be fixed in order to preserve confidentiality, I was told: “It’s okay, it’s only you!”
Mosdos that help needy members of the community: Do you keep your information confidential so your “clients” can walk with their heads held high? Are clients requesting assistance left waiting out in the hallway with the door closed in their face, while their case is being accessed?
The Rebbe had assured us that we are the last generation of Golus and the first generation of the Geula. Yet we are still here in Golus. The Rebbe told us that he has done all he can to bring Moshiach and he wondered out loud if 3 people, or 10 people have gotten the message? The Rebbe put the inyan in our hands.
As Mayor Koch was fond of saying: “How are (we) doing?”
The message is clear and we have our work cut out for us….We have to treat each other with respect, we have to reach out to our children who will lead with Moshiach Tdikeiynu Teykef U’Miyad Mamosh!