When we were kids we dreaded dark blustery, wintry days. Even rainy days were miserable. They were days spent indoors staring at tiny bubbles and cracks forming in the wallpaper. They were indolent times when reading books and reflecting on the meaning of life became more of a chore than the actual chores we were assigned to do around the house. They were restless times spent hassling, mocking and teasing each other. They were days spent staring out into the grayish morning hours until the equally inky hours of dusk waiting, hoping for a sliver of sunshine to pierce the clouds so that we could run outside and play for as long as the heavens would hold back the next wave of rain or snow.
Somewhere in those troublesome and disorderly indoor hours we found ways to occupy our time. Most of our time was wasted in the idle chatter and frivolous play of youth. But when we were feeling really industrious we would build things.
Mom would shout down to us in the basement of our split level home in West Jordan to calm down and behave as we would built houses with cards, houses with sheets, houses with nails and boards and houses with pillows and blankets. Once we built an elaborate maze of tunnels throughout the house using everything we could find. We did this for hours and for days on end, marveling at the things that we could do if only we set our minds and imaginations afire. Those days became magical in a sense because in my childish wonder I felt that I could build anything so long as I had something to build it with.
Perhaps as a byproduct of that childhood spent indoors on those cold, harsh wintry days I cultivated a love and a fascination for architecture. I’m particularly engrossed in the history that surrounds old buildings. How were they built? Why did the builder choose a specific material or a certain design. I gravitate towards old buildings because they have survived the ages and have so many stories to tell – some of them are well documented whereas others are secreted away in the dusty corners and moldy crevices never to be told.
Old buildings draw us in with their rich history whereas new buildings have not had time to show their resilience; have not suffered the chips of time, have not felt the bite of two decades of storms or the oppressive heat of two dozen more; have not known the pitter-patter of little feet and the stomp-stomp of larger, older ones within their bowels. And yet new buildings are every bit as necessary as old ones.
If buildings could talk I imagine that their conversations would be a lot like the conversations of humans from all nations, climes, cultures and times. I wonder if the coliseums in and around Rome would say, ‘They came here for sport and to see the spectacle but the things that happened with these walls were atrocious, tragic and horrific.’
In a way we are not so different from the structures that we build (I’ve been accused of being inanimate, large and in need of serious maintenance many times). Each of us is built with the same blue print but we have different designs, different purposes and different functions in life that draw us to and away from different people. We are attracted to certain types of people – some of them are beautiful, some are interesting, others draw us in because they are eccentric, quirky and weird. Some people make us feel comfortable, make us feel ourselves, make us impulsive in the same way that a cozy nook in your house, a romantic place overlooking a beach or a disproportionate cozy cabin in the hills can make us feel.
Some of us build things while others tear them down and both of these serve their own purposes. In many ways I compare this to the process that Super Mom and I have supervised the “building” of our sons and the gradual transition of giving them supervision of building their own future. I hope and earnestly pray that we have done more building than we have done tearing down.
Recently we asked a series of questions about parenting that we found in The Ensign. Up until that moment we thought we have done a fairly decent job of raising them. But as they did their best to honestly answer the questions without harming our egos we found that what we had really done was a really good job at making them less resilient. We discovered that we were ‘tearing down’ more often than we were building up.
Certainly, we have not been training future serial killers, sadists or animatronic sociopaths intent on ridding the world of vegans in our home, but are we doing everything within our knowledge and power to build men who will honor, love and respect their God, wives, children, country and community? Are we using the right materials, incorporating the right knowledge and expertise and giving the right support to build a man with a firm foundation rooted in good principles and the ability to deliberate, ponder and decide what is best for him and the people that he loves?
The recent events in Steubenville and the distressing example of boys like T.J. Lane are another wake up call to us as parents, coaches or community leaders that now more than ever we need to build men of integrity, men of character, men of respect with a reputation of doing good to all living things and an immovable disposition in championing the poor and downtrodden.
Build them to withstand the test of time so that their stories draw you in. Don’t tear them down to the point that the result is a life that repulses you. Build them to become….