Put a Smile on the Jack-o-lantern
Last evening we went to a dinner theatre here in Jacksonville, FL, with friends. We saw Annie Get Your Gun. We laughed and tapped our toes and enjoyed the uplifting lyrics of Irving Berlin. And, of course, we lamented, “They just don’t write lyrics like that anymore.”
Why not? I wondered. Uplifting lyrics are outmoded? There was no vulgarity, no skin, no sexual content, and the theatre was packed. Audiences love it. So why are we not writing joyfully anymore?
I’m disturbed by the lack of joy, the absence of gaiety, the over-powering darkness. Is it a surprise that suicide is the 3rd major cause of death for our young people? And the major cause of suicide is a feeling of hopelessness and despair.
Where are these feelings of hopelessness coming from? Books? Movies? Music? Yes. And also, from the lack of faith in their homes. Our unchurched youth, without knowledge of the ever-present love of God, the affirming knowledge that they and their bodies were carefully crafted by the Hand of their loving Father, are subjected to Dystopian, dysfunctional sex, and horror film, music and stories, constantly. Hopelessness, powerlessness, sadness, is a way of life. This isn’t “new”, really. Teens have always had fears, anxieties and insecurities when they move into the uncertainties of adult realms. But past generations have had the safety of a family that reassured them that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That what they were passing through was normal for everyone. That assurance is lacking for today’s youth. They walk around in black as if in mourning, when it isn’t Halloween.
An author from my area commented to me one time, “I’m surprised you don’t write dystopian YA. It’s the big seller now, you know.” He’s right. It is a big seller. So are books with vulgar language, dysfunctional sexuality, violence and terror. There is enough of that already.
My mother told me when I started high school that if I didn’t like the way things were going I should make it better. I was on Student Council for four years. She told me I didn’t have to be just like my friends, didn’t have to dress like them. She told me I was free to walk away from anything going on I didn’t want to be part of. I think that’s what I’m still doing. I’m trying to make the book scene better for young people. I’m walking away from hopelessness and despair, and trying to bring joy, faith, hope, and color into the lives of my readers. When my friends created scary faces on their pumpkins, I carved smiles on mine.