Have you ever read a headline like this:
“Local Teen Hero Sits at Home & Does Absolutely Nothing!”
You never have, and you never will. Heroes are people who act, often in the face of danger or adversity.
Playing at Being a Hero
In my experience, slackers are people who dream about being heroes but who don't take the steps needed to build heroic character and skills. Either they don't believe it's possible they can make a difference, or they don't have a clue where to start.
This is why computer and console games, the biggest waste of slackers' time, are almost all about playing the role of a hero.
Homeschool parents get concerned when a student starts to spend long hours at these games, and rightly so. On top of the hours taken away from real-world and educational activities, these games have a way of killing any desire for such activities.
Why is that?
I believe it is because such games are not only virtual reality, but virtual education. The mental energy required to learn the strategies, break the codes, and overcome your enemies is exactly the same mental energy that would otherwise go into curious investigation of the real world - including the world of adult skills and knowledge we're so desperate to teach them.
Living Through a "hero" Who Plays
Games are not the only path to slacking. Instead of being the hero in a game, which at least requires some mental energy, many kids are content to pick a "hero" and live vicariously through that person.
As Marion Kester Coombs points out in her article, the heroes the "kidz" pick tend to be people who play for a living: film stars, sports idols, and musicians.
Some kids - and some adults - have been known to get so wrapped up in their heroes' lives they even commit suicide when the hero dies. That has to be the epitome of slacking - not having any identity or life of your own.
A Return to Heroes
Since 9/11, there has been a welcome, and long overdue, recognition of the heroism of such people as firemen and policemen. This is a great time to finally take that field trip to the police station and firehouse, where your kids can meet real, live people who have willingly chosen to put their lives on the line to protect others every day. And here are some more ideas:
Playing a police simulation can't compare with going to your local "Police Explorers" club for high-school students, where they teach you real-life skills, such as how to cuff a suspect. You may even get to compete in the bi-annual National Police Explorers' Conference! To join, contact your local police.
Want to rescue people? Forget Final Fantasy 7 - join Civil Air Patrol. Kids as young as 11 can join and participate in real search and rescue. To find your local squadron, visit www.gocivilairpatrol.com.
Dream of flying a plane? Quit fooling with aircraft and Tie Fighter sims and sign up for EAA Camp this summer in Oshkosh, WI (www.youngeagles.org).
Stuck on Doom and Quake? Maybe your teen needs to take a hunter safety course and learn what guns are really all about. (Hint: Think Davy Crockett, not Terminator.)
Of course, firemen, policemen, pilots, soldiers, and Davy Crockett are not the only possible heroes for your teen. I mentioned these first, because so many computer games are wannabe fantasies based loosely on these character types.
What about spiritual heroes? I have never seen a computer game based on the life of missionary Hudson Taylor, and I doubt you have either! Yet many adventurous teens have discovered the world's needs, and that they can make a difference, through a short-term mission, such as those offered by Teen Missions (www.teenmissions.org).
Don't forget the thinkers! When I was in school, my personal heroes were men of science, such as George Washington Carver and Thomas Edison. This influenced my choice of M.I.T. as a college.
Teach your kids that success comes through work, not play. Provide genuinely adventurous activities and heroes in place of ersatz game adventures and pop stars. Be an example of hard work and joyous sacrifice. Pray. And your kids may just grow up to be the generation of heroes this world needs.