I am indeed happy to be with you this morning to share the “Children’s Sabbath” with you. There is, of course , nothing dearer to my heart than children,, since I have spent most of my life caring for and worrying about them. Even today, as President of Covenant House, my primary responsibility and focus is just that -caring for and worrying about children. In many ways as I look at our era there is indeed much to worry about regarding what is happening to our children: divorce in about 50% of first marriages, high teen pregnancy, increasing numbers of single parents, too much juvenile crime, too many runaways and street kids, high school dropouts, etc. I see many twists in our American culture that I fear are making it more difficult for children. In spite of the fact that we pride ourselves on having the most advanced civilization in the modem world – we claim to be the best in many ways – the greatest prosperity, the best educational systems, the most opportunities, the highest level of comfort —yet the reality is that in the midst of so much there are far too many children who have too little. Maybe we don’t count right – maybe as we count our blessings, our counting is skewed by our understanding of what is really good – of what makes the world truly “right” for our children. Maybe our measuring sticks are somewhat inaccurate because they have focused on some values to the detriment of others. Consequently, some critical values are not adequately represented in our measuring process. An example: I met a boy in Anchorage, Alaska at our Covenant House. He had run away from his home in Kearney, New Jersey. He was from an upper middle class home. His father was a lawyer, and his ‘ mother a pediatrician. I happened to be in Alaska at the time he was there, so I had a talk with him. I asked him why he had run away. By the way, he had on a tweed jacket that probably cost $150. He told me he did

not want to go home because he was frustrated and lonely. He said, I hardly spend any time with my parents. They are always out. They go to lots of meetings, dinners, and I am sick of living off TV dinners. They won’t let me have my friends in and I can’t go to other kids’ houses, so I don’t want to live there any more.” Jonathan was M. was enrolled in a private, catholic, tuition high school, was a good student but an unhappy kid who was truly alone in so many ways, and genuinely lonely. Jonathan told me he had $ 1 000 in the bank took it out,, went to a travel agency and said he wanted to go as far away as he could for a thousand dollars without a passport. Believe it or not, the agent sold him a $930 ticket to Anchorage from Newark. He got off the plane, got in a taxi, and said to the driver, “take me to the nearest Catholic Rectory”. The Dominican Friar that heads the Cathedral in Anchorage told me this part. He answered a call to find Jonathan sitting in the parlor. Jonathan said, I just ran away and I don’t know what to do next.” The friar talked with him and then walked him five blocks to our Covenant House in Anchorage. There was actually an “all points” bulletin out for him in the lower 48 states. I talked to his mom and she was relieved to hear he was o.k. His parents had indeed been desperate, totally at a loss to know what had happened to him. His mom told me she was mystified because they bought him good clothes, sent him to a good school, and gave him plenty of spending money. When I shared with her his unhappiness and loneliness,, she was amazed and clueless about how he could feel that way. He eventually agreed to go home, reluctantly, and now I get regular calls from Jonathan telling me that things are a lot better, and the family now has dinner together three times a week and goes to church together some Sundays. So what was missing in Jonathan’s life? Obviously, the love, care and attention that every child, and certainly every teenager, needs in order to feel wanted and loved. His parents’ measuring tool was missing a key ingredient -attention. The provision of lots of material things with little emotional care was just not the right measure to meet Jonathan’s needs.

The reality is that it takes time to give to children the attention they need. Parents who have no time for their children, and provide generously in material things, have a notch missing on their measuring stick. Faith, time,, love are all essential ingredients of giving kids true, full measure needed to fill the void. Every parent today is faced with the need to give their children the capacity to cope in a world that has plenty of insecurities. New anxieties and fears are a reality in our world today and I am sure that all of you here today would like to offer your children the most secure future you can. Who would not want the formula to do just that? I ask you to consider the process of creating resiliency in your children. During recent decades there has been wonderful research done on the things that give kids the capacity to recover from trauma. We call it resiliency and that is the major point I want to talk with you about today. What is a resilient child and how can we help kids be resilient? This is a big concern of mine because I spend my life helping kids recover from the endless traumas in their lives. So I look very hard for signs of resiliency. When we speak of resilience in kids, the research shows that the key difference between kids who are resilient and those who are not is the presence or absence of true love in their lives. Kids who at one point in their lives were loved and felt they were loved have a certain something that contributes to their ability to survive and recover when life deals them hard blows. There is nothing more wonderful than to watch this process of recovery and nothing more sad than trying to help a hurt child recover who seems to lack the wherewithal to deal with the traumas: their fears and depression overwhelm them – they get easily discouraged and lack the courage and hope to try life again. Let me stop for just a minute to remind us all that the Gospel of John tells us that “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him”. To abide,, to live,, to exist in God is truly to live. Where

Children need an overarching sense of God, as the overall protector, the One who will always be there for them. To get to own this sense of God,, it is important for parents to talk of God’s presence, His providential care and love in their own lives so that it becomes second nature to the child to look to God as friend and protector, indeed as Our Father.

Children require hope and the courage to follow their goals. These qualities help them develop the inner strength and resilience necessary to succeed despite the adversities that may and often do come their way. To develop a resilient mindset, children need more than just support and care. They require daily affirmation and encouragement, parents active involvement in their lives,, opportunities to participate in the community and a supportive neighborhood. Children require boundaries, values, realistic expectations and caring schools. While there is no precise formula,, there are common themes,, issues and opportunities that all parents must provide for their children.

For too long we have been influenced by a culturally driven, deficit thinking model or problem solving model. Consequently as our children have experienced increasing problems, our efforts have been directed toward how to “fix” these problems. This orientation has proven counterproductive. It is time to give heed to enabling our children rather than fixing these problems and liabilities. It is time that our children turn to the adults in their lives as supports and resources rather than as judges and critics. The body of research on resilience and success in our kids suggests that there are powerful factors that contribute to a positive outcome. Many of these are manifested in the quality of the parent-child relationship. Resilient children—those who are happy and successful, those who learn to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviors do so

through the common denominator of living, working with and being educated by available and caring adults. I pray for you all that these may be God’s gifts to you and to your children this Children’s Sabbath. Let me address the children for a moment. Today’s Celebration is especially for you and how important you are to all of us. I hope today you will take a minute while you are still in church, to thank God for all the gifts He has given to you, especially your parents who love and care for you and who bring you to church. When I used the word resilient today in talking to your parents, I was referring to your ability to keep bouncing back when things are tough and to keep trusting that God will be with you at all times, always ready to help you. Please pray too, for me and for all my kids who have not been as blessed as you are. At Covenant House where we care for Street Kids,, I believe it is never too late to be that significant other person in a child’s life. We believe that we are called to be the healing ingredient that offers kids, most of whom have known only pain, neglect, and trauma in their lives, the opportunity to grow, to feel loved and respected. I ask your prayers for all of us at Covenant House that we can make everyday a Children’s Sabbath and draw them closer to the God who truly loves them.