It all begins at home

7 02 2021

On a chilly September night in 1994, two teenage brothers forced an 11 year old boy, Robert Sandifer into the back of a car, drove him to an alley, told him to get out and on his knees and shot him twice at the back of the head killing him. Robert (also called “Yummy”) and the teenage brothers where part of a gang robbing, raping and dealing drugs in the neighborhood, and Yummy was on the run for killing a teenage girl, the problem was that the brothers felt Yummy was compromised and could give them away and the only way to deal with that was to take him out. The news broke in Chicago media and indeed the world was amazed that such young boys where capable of such crime, and the Times featured Yummy’s picture on the front page with the title, “Too young to kill, too young to die.” The two brothers were arrested however, the older who was 16 at the time was sentenced to 60 years jail time, while the younger 14, got 45 year jail.

How did things come to such a pass and how did these youngsters turn killers. Some people blame this tragic incident on the failure of the system to provide guidance, encouragement for youngsters. But all time superstars, Denzel Washington disagrees.

“It all begins at the home,” he says, “because the time the system comes into play, the damage is done. Where was his father? It starts in the house, it starts in the home… If the father is not home, then the street becomes the father.”

So, where were Yummy’s mother and father? Yummy mother was arrested multiple times for prostitution, and his father was in jail for felony and he was seriously abused boy, who ran away juvenile home authorities sent him after his mother’s arrest, and at age of 8 lived out on the streets where he joined up with gangs running drugs and robbing people. 

“So we have to ask where Yummy’s father was.” Washington continues “and if you say he is jail, I would ask where the father of Yummy’s father was?”

Denzel Washington

What Washington is saying is that parents are the first educators of their children and if they fail in that duty, it is usually too late to help. And he is not the only one saying it. The Catholic Church has been preaching this for centuries, that parents have the great duty to bring up their children to be good citizens and no system, or government agency can play that role effectively, making it all important that governments should promote stable families.

 Pope Francis adds that the family is the “center of love” where the law of respect and communion reigns and is able to resist the pressure of manipulation and domination from the world’s ‘power centers’. In the heart of the family, the person naturally and harmoniously blends into a human group, overcoming the false opposition between the individual and society.

St. Josemaria, the founder of Opus Dei, when asked about how parents can become good fathers and good mothers said:

Parents teach their children mainly through their own conduct. What a son or daughter looks for in a father or mother is not only a certain amount of knowledge or some more or less effective advice, but primarily something more important: a proof of the value and meaning of life, shown through the life of a specific person, and confirmed in the different situations and circumstances that occur over a period of time. He continues saying that

The parents are the first people responsible for the education of their children, in human as well as in spiritual matters. They should be conscious of the extent of their responsibility. To fulfill it, they need prudence, understanding, a capacity to love and a concern for giving good example.

Being a father or a mother is not simply a matter of bringing children into the world. The capacity for generation, which is a share in the creative power of God, is meant to have a continuation. Parents are called to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in the development of their children into men and women who will be authentic Christians.

It is true that in today’s busy world parents have to grapple with lots of things, including not having enough time to be with their children as a result of work or lack of it, or some other circumstances that impede them from carrying out this duty, but St. Josemaria insist:

Parents should find time to spend with their children, to talk with them. They are the most important thing – more important than business or work or rest. In their conversations “parents should make an effort to listen, to pay attention, to understand, to recognize the fact that their children are sometimes partly right – or even completely right – in some of their rebellious attitudes. At the same time, they should help their children to direct their efforts and to carry out their projects properly, teaching them to consider things and to reason them out. It is not a matter of imposing a line of conduct, but rather of showing the human and supernatural motives for it. In a word, parents have to respect their children’s freedom, because there is no real education without personal responsibility, and there is no responsibility without freedom.”

And in January 16, 1915, speaking at a meeting of Families in Manila, Pope Francis also warned of some ideologies seeking to destroy the family:

“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life and adds that every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.”

Not to mention the sexual revolution that has been wrecking havoc since its inception in the 60’s on the lives of vulnerable young men and women, resulting in spiking teenage pregnancies, poverty, crime, school dropout and substance abuse. This comes out graphically in the case of Yummy and the two teenage boys who killed him. Lottie Joiner, writing for the Center for Health Journalism, lives in a neighborhood four miles from U.S Capitol claims that “73 percent of children in the neighborhood live in households headed by a woman.”

“And research show,” she continues, “that children in fatherless homes easily drop out of school, exhibit behavioral problems, end up in the criminal justice system, suffer unemployment, and are at a greater risk of substance and drug abuse.”

University of California San Francisco Professor Howard Pinderhughes adds that “If you don’t have a father in the home who can act as a source of support and one of your pillars for your formation of resilience, then you’re less likely to be resilient in the face of a lot of sources of trauma.”

Family therapist Ayize Ma’at chips in that 90 percent of his clients are black boys without fathers, many of whom come in with major depression disorders.

“We look at our youth and say that they’re bad. I like to say they’re hurting,” said Ma’at. “Their behaviors are behaviors of them acting out pain. They’re just trying to meet a need — the need to be included, to be loved, to be welcomed, respected and wanted.”

The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family,” Pope Francis continues:

So protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation! So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.

by Chinwuba Iyizoba


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