I was fortunate to grow up in a community where and an era when adults were invested in kids. Although most of the adults with whom kids interacted were Christians, adults generally did not use religious dogma to articulate their guidance. But because it was assumed that kids were taught the Ten Commandments in Sunday school, adults did not hesitate to speak to a kid who stole something, as well as to the kid’s family, with reference to the Biblical commandment against theft.

Adults wanted kids to grow up to be decent, caring and law-abiding citizens. Even those adults who were not the cream of the crop took an interest in the welfare of kids. “It takes a village to raise a child” (African proverb made popular by Hillary Clinton) was very much in practice.

Adults asked kids about school and gave them a little change for milk or school supplies. Storekeepers had kids calculate how much change they should get. Senior citizens trusted and relied on kids to run errands for them. Adults played games such as softball, hopscotch, jacks, and jump rope with kids. Adults held face-to-face conversations with kids (no cell phones) and recited nursery rhymes and poems to them. I still remember being mesmerized as a youngster by the lip movements of an adult reciting:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

I remember trying over and over again to recite this while the adult and I laughed at my attempts. I remember my mom reciting from memory long Paul Laurence Dunbar poems, as well as “The Song of Hiawatha,” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I want to point out that about 99 percent of the adults about whom I refer were African Americans.

I know that there are many adults today who are invested in kids and who struggle against the negative tide to raise “good” kids. It saddens me that so much neglect and abuse of kids exists today and that kids are exposed to so many inappropriate behaviors, behaviors that are too often condoned. One of my dearest adult friends sees nothing wrong with WikiLeaks even though she acknowledges its negative ramifications for diplomatic relations. She also sees nothing wrong with exposing her grandchildren (under 10 years of age) to inappropriate movies, because she believes they have probably “already been exposed.” Irresponsibility in practice.

The holidays for gift-giving are upon us or soon will be. Along with, or instead of, giving material gifts, let us give kids a sense of worth and respect for others. “Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone.” (Morocco) It will take a village to do so.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...