Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dumb Down or Smarten Up?

She was walking in my direction, pushing her shopping cart when I heard her say in a loud, enthusiastic voice, "Hi! How are you?" I quickly glanced up and saw she was on her cell phone speaking with a polished professional tone as she schlepped her way through WalMart in a baggy T-shirt and her hair pulled into a messy pony-tail. I'm not an eavesdropper, but her voice was so loud I couldn't help hear that she was discussing the possibility of a job interview for a receptionist position with a potential employer. She sounded pleasant, smooth and confident, and then I heard her say, "I was planning to go, but I didn't went" That's right - didn't went.

I looked at her and with all my might, I wanted to say, "Didn't GO, it's DIDN'T GO! And then give her a lecture on why she can't expect to get a well-paying job at a good company as a receptionist if she can't speak basic English. But she was busy trying to explain why she didn't went, and I walked off to another aisle.

I have seen many articles bemoaning the "dumbing down" of our culture, the LOLs and OMGs and text gibberish of teenagers who really couldn't care less how they speak or spell anymore. Many kids grow up in families and neighborhoods that have developed their own mutant form of English, are taught in schools that are no more than assembly-line factories that slap a diploma in their hands when they reach 18, that they don't even realize how backwards they sound to everyone else. I have personally met both parents and kids who accuse employers of racism, sexism, or any other -ism when they are rejected for jobs that kids from better homes easily get. CEO's of the corporate world are worried that current high school and even college graduates are so far below the standards of education that they need for entry-level employees, some are even starting specialized training programs to make up for what schools and parents are not doing.

I know that it's tough coming from a home of immigrant parents, when no one else around you values a good education, when speaking well means sounding out of place, but the question is, are you satisfied with the place you're in right now? Who wants to be a college graduate who still doesn't know that the word forever does not include the number 4? It's not like you're learning a foreign language, it's just learning your own language correctly. Stay tuned for Part II.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Decision That Saved His Life

When Mark was 11 months old and tottering around the house on chubby little legs, I had to carefully baby-proof every room. I made sure there was no table he could pull down on himself, that all the light sockets were covered, that there were no small articles that he could put in his mouth and choke on. Also that every door that led outside was securely locked - except for that day.

Sunday after church in Durban, South Africa, we went home while my husband stayed behind to preach in the afternoon services, and Todd went to a friend's house. I fed the baby, and let him wander around as I did some laundry, thinking that I would get a head start on Monday's chores. I really don't know how many minutes passed before I realized that I no longer heard his chattering voice, I had been so lost in thought. Terror gripped me when I started to call his name and go from room to room and not hear a sound or see him anywhere. I ran up and down the hallways, and then glanced out the window to see his little body floating face-down in the swimming pool in the back yard. The one door in the back porch that was always locked had been left unlatched. He had pushed it open, and loving the pool, had walked right into it and drowned.

The first word out of my mouth was, NOOOO!!!! I ran and jumped in the pool to fish him out. He was swollen, blue and not breathing. His arms were stiffly sticking out to either side, and he was unrecognizable. He must have been there for quite some time to have transformed into this monster-like creature. I rushed him to the small carpet on the back porch and began to pump his stomach - something I had only seen on TV and remembered from a high school P.E. class.

From the moment I saw him and tried to resuscitate him, a million thoughts were running through my mind. "You idiot! Why didn't you check that door? It's all your fault that he's dead!" "Just be thankful to God that He gave you these 11 months with him on this earth, it must be his time to go to heaven." "Why are you even praying? You haven't been that spiritual lately, why do you think God would listen to you now when you don't deserve it? You're a failure as a mother!"

And then, thank God, other thoughts flooded in: "God is a healer! God does miracles! God raises the dead!" "Pray, fight for him like never before, forget whether you feel spiritual or worthy of anything - this is your child PRAY! FIGHT NOW!" Then a determination swept over me and an anger that the devil wanted to kill my son. I prayed against the feelings and told God, "If I have to pray for a week for him to come back from the dead, I'm not stopping." I made my decision and began to rebuke all the evil that was at work to steal his life.

All of this happened within seconds, but it was a decision of life and death. I was pumping his stomach, and nothing was happening. I was trying to breath into his mouth, but the air wasn't going in. I kept praying, rebuking, and doing all I could, and finally as I breathed into him once more, I felt his lungs fill and his chest rose with air. He made a tiny groan, and I knew he would live. I picked him up and he vomited all the water out of his stomach, and began to cry weakly. He was limp, gray, and couldn't move his limbs. I ran in and bundled him up in a blanket and massaged him all over, and made more decisions for God and the devil to hear:

"He will not be brain damaged."
"He will not have any paralysis or loss of movement."
"He will be perfectly normal in every way.
"He will not be traumatized by what just happened."
"He will have no fear of water, love swimming and grow to be a bold, happy and healthy boy!"

I called my husband, who was on his way home to change his shirt, something that he normally didn't do on Sundays. He prayed with me over the phone. I called the pediatrician who arranged for us to go straight into the emergency room. Then Marky ate, slept, and woke up talking away in his baby language about balls and cars and ready to play!

The trip to the hospital proved beyond a doubt that what I had decided was exactly what God had done. They had to remove us from the Intensive Care Unit because I couldn't keep him from running around the room and squealing! He was the healthiest patient there. Even a troop of student nurses, led by their head nurse, came to see me and congratulate me for having done a "wonderful job of CPR." But that wasn't what really brought Mark back to life - it was deciding to use my faith, against all odds and against all emotions. They kept us overnight, just in case some complication arose, but the doctor released us sooner than planned. As soon as we got home, I took him around to the back yard. When he spotted the pool, he stretched out his arms and shouted, "Pool! Pool!" And with all our clothes on, we hopped in and went for a lovely swim.

He is a happy, healthy, active 11 year old, who loves to help us evangelize, play soccer and is game for just about anything. But if I had decided to listen to those "logical" arguments in my head to just be thankful that I had him for 11 months, that would be exactly what God would have allowed and we would have buried him that week. The power to decide is what faith is all about. It's God's gift to us so He can show His power, but only we can make it happen.