Sunday, June 21, 2009

Knapsack 6-25

Notes From My Knapsack 6-25-09 – Granville Sentinel

Jeff Gill


Stepping Cautiously Into Adulthood



When does a child become an adult?


I have the honor and responsibility of writing a column every Saturday in the Newark Advocate for the "Your Faith" page, and last week's "Faith Works" asked Licking County faith communities to think about their rituals and observances and milestones for young people that mark their passage into adulthood.


Out at Camp Falling Rock last week, I had the chance to think about this watching a record setting Cub Scout Day Camp play out, with over 400 kids and more than 100 adults spending Tuesday through Friday clambering around the fields, rocks, waterfalls, hills, and high points (real and symbolic).


Pack 3 of Granville was also represented by 34 Cub Scouts and over a dozen different leaders and parents (some one day, some all four), anchored by Cubmaster Ed Hock, who was very pleased and proud with the turnout.


For these kids, from all around Licking County and a few Packs out of neighboring counties, there were many who had their first time in a rowboat, first time shooting arrows from a bow or firing a BB gun, who had never launched a rocket they made themselves from a two liter bottle (air pressure style) or walked up a creek looking for crawdads and frogs. A few may even have never been in a pool before, or walked up a hill so steep they couldn't see the top of it when they started.


That's part of why events like Cub Scout Day Camp are so memorable, for children and parents. They're full of firsts, of benchmarks and bright lines and beginnings of new experiences that may pale and wear smooth with repetition, but whose origin will never be forgotten.


Which is marvelous for seven and eight and nine year olds, who start to sense their place, and their ability to find it, in a world they now know is larger than the backyard and TV remote can encompass. But they know, as they watch the older Scouts helping out (which my son got to do for the first time this year), that they're still a long ways off from adulthood.


When is that, though? We put driving at sixteen, which is a major milestone for young people, but voting is at eighteen, "adult beverage" consumption is at 21, and quite frankly, we seem to keep back some sense of cultural acknowledgment that "young adults" are really grown up and fully responsible right through college graduation around 22 and beyond.


As we look around the country at an out of wedlock birthrate now past 4 out of 10 babies born to single mothers, I wonder if there's an element in this of young people wanting to prove in a definitive, inarguable way: "I am an adult." Fathering a child or giving birth to one is, indeed, a horizon you can only step across once.


Somewhere between a learner's permit and pregnancy is a place where as a community we need to help affirm the gift and privilege and responsibility of saying "I am responsible for my choices and actions and decisions." Even as we build a society where, blessedly, many hard landings are cushioned and buffered, can we also create a solid place to stand that says "Here I begin to shape my life with intention and purpose."


One possibility: I think I see and hear a bit of this sort of "rite of passage" with those who go on work trips and mission trips, to take their beliefs and values somewhere beyond their comfort zone and act on them, whether with drywall mud and hammers, or in conversation and conversion.


Those who come back from experiences like that know they are creating their lives, not just experiencing events; even as they better understand how dependent they are on others, no matter how independently they might adventure.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him about a rite of passage you've known at or follow "Knapsack"

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