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Just dropping by... The Devil’s workshop

Yevet Tenney Published on 03 February 2010

Back in the Dark Ages when I was in college, I was talking to someone about raising teenagers.

He said, “Teenagers who commit suicide don’t feel that they are not loved; they simply feel that they are not needed.” I have pondered that statement every time I’ve heard of the untimely and senseless death of a teenager. I wonder if they felt that they were not needed.

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It is easy to see how they could feel like a loose bolt on an unused machine in our society today. We have instant everything. We don’t have to spend time in the kitchen if we don’t want to. We pop our pre-packaged food in the microwave, and toss the remains in the garbage. There are no dishes to wash, and the trash is neatly crushed in the compactor. We might have to pick up our clothes and toss them in the laundry and make our bed, but what do you do with the rest of the day? I have always heard that the idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. That statement is exceptionally true today.

Several years ago, I started writing a story to address this situation. I add it here because it depicts what happens to kids when they have too much time on their hands. They get into situations they don’t know how to get out of because they don’t have adults to turn to. The story beginning is from “Dance in the Silent Symphony.”

They passed the newspaper around. Each shadowed face peered at the picture with interest. Woman Shot in Parking Lot. Police Hunt for Assailant. Those were the stark headlines. Randal didn’t dare look up. Icy fingers of terror gripped his throat, and he could feel the color drain from his cheeks as he stared at the picture and passed it on. He ventured to look up at Candor, who took the paper next.

Candor’s flaming hair was damp with perspiration, but his expression was a steel mask.

Candor passed the paper to Manuel, who rustled the paper nervously as he squinted to read the lines. “She’s dead.” He breathed almost imperceptibly.

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“Course she’s dead,” howled Arnie. “What you ‘spect?”

Manuel looked down; the brim of his hat shaded his face. “Yah man, that’s cool.”

Randal felt his body flex to rise and run, but he squelched the impulse.

He looked up and locked stares with Arnie.

Arnie had a wrestler’s body with deep well-maintained muscles. His blond hair resembled a lion’s mane and his blue eyes squinted with dark fire. He grasped the paper, rolled it up and leaped to his feet.

“We all done it, now,” he roared with fiendish delight. “We are one now!” Suddenly he froze. “’Cept for you,” Arnie extended the newspaper toward Randal.

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Randal felt his whole body shudder inside, but he met the extended newspaper challenge with a frozen empty stare.

“Tomorrow.” Arnie’s one-word command sent a chill rippling up Randal’s spine.

The silence was covered by the scream of a siren. The group scrambled to their feet and piled into the sleek silver Firebird that belonged to Arnie. Doors banged, the engine roared and the tires squealed. Randal’s head pressed hard against the back seat. As they sped down the highway the glimmering streetlights flashed from dark to light. Randal stared at Arnie’s clammy face in the mirror.

His hair glowed from gold to red to green, but his metal expression never changed. “Tomorrow!” Arnie’s last word screamed through Randal’s body like an electric drill. “Tomorrow.”

The tires screeched and the Firebird jerked to a halt in front of Randal’s house. Randal climbed over Manuel to exit. He was on the run to the house when Arnie’s icy voice stopped him.

“Hey, Randal!”

Randal turned around slowly to face Arnie. Feeling cold and alone, he thought of the woman in the parking lot and of her family. He almost expected to see Arnie’s blue handgun to be leveled at him, but instead Arnie smiled and gave him the thumbs up. “Tomorrow,” he repeated. His teeth gleamed bright in the streetlight.

Randal lifted his thumb in return and forced his face into a broad grin. He turned and raced into the house. His fingers were trembling so hard that he dropped the key twice before he could get it into the lock. He heard the Firebird roar away as he slammed the door behind him.

A wave of terrible nausea swept over him as he sank against the door. He slid down the door and rested his elbows on his knees. His pounding head fell upon his hands. The silence of the big empty house engulfed him and for the first time in a long time, he wished his mother were home.

So many times children come home to empty houses. It does not matter why the parents are gone. They may have to work, visit neighbors, community service or take care of ailing parents, but the empty house is still empty and kids are still alone. The children easily become prey to the ills of society. How can that be? The house is safer than the street. Perhaps, perhaps not.

With a click of the remote, the television becomes a seething mass of filth, revolting role models and sick society situations. How is a child supposed to grow up with any kind of values? How is he supposed to know the difference between right and wrong? How is he supposed to know that killing is evil? On a sitcom, a character dies and comes back well and happy in another TV show. Children don’t know that real death is forever. Even if children know death is forever, they become desensitized to the feelings of others. After a person has watched the pretended suffering of people over and over, what is there to feel when real people suffer?

Some folks restrict their television and allow their children to roam freely on the Internet. Shut off the television and give them a password to the Internet to play video games? Lasciviousness and sordid obsessions are just a mouse click away. Some parents live in “Happy Valley,” thinking that their sweet child would never be hooked on the Internet slop. I have heard the saying, “First we abhor; then we humor; then we embrace.” It is a gradual process.

When I was a teenager, I used to watch movies in the theatre. The movie industry was just trying their wings in the realm of violence and sexual exploitation, with movies like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” and “Beguiled.” Of course, those movies didn’t hold a candle to what is being produced today.

After I went on a Christian mission, I decided that there were many other useful things to do beside watch television. I didn’t watch television for several years running. If I happened to walk into someone’s house that had a television, I was always shocked at the content. I even had to consciously turn my head away, so I didn’t have to watch. I went to movies that I knew were uplifting, and if I got a surprise, I walked out. I didn’t want the images of wickedness shaping my life.

As I kept my commitment, I began to realize that the movie industry was on a downhill slide into the sewer. What I had watched as a teenager, was lily-white compared to what is being shown on primetime television. The movies that had stained my face with embarrassment as a teenager, were viewed as acceptable for family entertainment.

My heart goes out to latch-key kids who have free access to television and the Internet. They are playing in the Devil’s workshop. They will never know what it is like to see the world and people as they really are. Most people solve their problems by talking and being kind, not by punching someone in the nose.

Most people don’t jump in bed with strangers without terrible consequence. Most people don’t hate their neighbors. Kids who are raised on the Internet and television will always see life through the lens of the media. They will never know until it is too late, that violence is not the answer. They will never be able to see that women are not human dolls who have perfect bodies, but real women become mothers and are beautiful because of who they are inside and for what they contribute.

As parents, we need to turn off the media and just take time to get to know each other. We need to be there for our kids. Houses should be filled with people working together for common family goals and uplifting family times. Let’s live in the real world and experience life as God intended it to be, mothers and fathers teaching children the values that will bring peace to society. Close the door to the Devil’s workshop and give your children something to do, so they will feel needed and loved. PD

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