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My seven-year-old granddaughter has a diary where she often writes down that day’s events. I know that her stories are very personal because frequently I jokingly ask her to allow me to read what she has written. She gives me that look, like “Pappy, you had better not touch my diary.” She always locks her diary when she is finished writing in it and places the key in her secret hiding place. What she doesn’t know is that anyone could take just about anything with a smooth surface and open the latch on the diary.

Written like a diary, Stories for the Heart compiled by Alice Gray has 100 inspirational stories  by various notable and influential individuals to encourage one’s soul. One of those timeless inspiring stories is penned by President Theodore Roosevelt. He writes “No other success in life – not being President, or being wealthy, or going to college, or writing a book, or anything else – comes up to the success of the man or woman who can feel that they have done their duty and that their children and grandchildren rise up and call them blessed.”

President Roosevelt was writing about the importance of parenting, one of the most important jobs in society.  The detrimental impact of poor parenting is well documented in The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell (see previous week’s post for more information.) The 150 students who called themselves the “Freedom Writers” recorded their life stories depicting troubled and sometimes violent environments that they were exposed to daily.  Their lives were sadly so far from what President Roosevelt hoped and envisioned for all children when he wrote the above quote.

As the “Freedom Writers” pen their stories to paper in their diaries, you get a deep sense of their pain whenever they describe the condition of their home environment, void of love and affection. It’s true that if you stay in an environment that fosters crime you can become a product of the environment. These teenage students’ communities and homes had become magnets for drugs, gangs, gun violence and homelessness. Many students lived in a condition of a hopelessness until their school teacher, Ms. Erin Gurell instilled in them the mindset that they had the ability to rise above to become productive citizens – doctors, lawyers, politicians, or whatever they wanted to be.

I’m sure many of them have children today and that some of those children have secrets hidden in their diaries—secrets that no child or parent really needs to hide.

Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!

Chaplain Walter Ghosten

By Chaplain Ghosten