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April 24, 2013
Raising the Rising Generation
It Takes a Village
by Emily S. Jorgensen

One of the great things about my job as a piano teacher is I often get to work with the same student for several years.

Some students I have taught for more than 10 years, watching them launch into adulthood with missions, marriages, and college.

Recently, a former student (we’ll call him Jason), who I had taught from the third grade until he graduated from high school, invited me to attend the temple with him as he went for the first time in preparation for accepting his mission call. I was thrilled.

My husband graciously took care of the children while I disappeared for a few hours on Saturday.

As I sat down next to Jason’s mother (we’ll call her Susan) in the chapel of the temple, waiting for our turn to attend a session, she leaned over to me, thanked me for coming, and whispered, “You know, it really does take a village.”

I pondered her words throughout my visit to the temple that day. Jason looked so handsome and pure. He was ready to accept his role as an adult in the Kingdom of God.

In some ways it was a miracle he was there that day. Between ADHD and type 1 diabetes, his life has not been easy.

I thought about the day I called Susan when he was about 13 years old. I told her he really wasn’t practicing at all, and was not making any progress. I wondered if she felt she was wasting her money and maybe piano was not really what he wanted to do. She shared something that truly humbled me.

I knew that Jason had been adopted as a baby, but I didn’t know that the one promise his birth mother had asked for was that he be given piano lessons.

Susan was determined to honor that promise. She felt that as long as he was enjoying coming to lessons, she didn’t care if he never learned very much piano.

Over the years she began to joke that piano lessons were the cheapest therapy she’d ever found.

It is true—Jason didn’t practice much. But, he did talk to me. Things he didn’t want to tell his mother, things he was upset about at school, things that scared him—he told me these things because he knew he could trust me.

I especially remember one day in the last year of his lessons. He came in very upset. I tried to get him to play something we had been working on. He clearly didn’t want to play anything. So I waited patiently.

This is key—waiting for a teen to start the talking. Too often we adults want to hurry up, get to the point, stop talking so I can tell you what you should do now, because I know everything, blah blah blah.

He got a little teary. He said his best friend had decided to become sexually active with his girlfriend. His best friend had been raised in the Church, and had always seemed to have a testimony. It was somewhat devastating for Jason to see his friend make these choices. It forced him to reevaluate his own beliefs as well as his friendship with this other young man.

I remember feeling so proud of Jason that day, because it was clear his friend’s choices were serving to galvanize his own sense of morality rather than undermine it. It was obvious that somewhere along the line he had developed his own testimony, independent of those he loves.

At the end of the temple session that day I found myself standing next to Jason’s aunt in the Celestial Room. I knew that she had never had children of her own, but had dedicated all her mothering energy to her niece and nephews, one of which was Jason.

It was so clear to me that she and her husband loved Jason as though he was their own.

Watching the adults that love Jason surround and congratulate him in that holy place, I couldn’t help but agree with Susan. It does take a village.

For Jason, it took a birth mother who loved him enough to place him in a stable home; adoptive parents who took him without a moment’s hesitation, although they didn’t know exactly what they were in for; an aunt and uncle that served as a second set of parents; grandparents, friends, and teachers (like me!) who accepted him as he was.

As a parent, I pray that my children and I find this kind of support in our extended family, ward, and schools. And I choose to be that kind of support when a child comes into my life through any avenue.

One of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon, since becoming a mother, is that of the armies of Helaman. I love that these teenage boys saw the right choice when it came to them because their mothers had taught them the Gospel.

I think all Mormon moms love that verse, “We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:48)

But, their mommies were not marching to war with them. Who was? Helaman, that’s who.

His righteous leadership and respect for these young men, who were mostly teenage boys, made all the difference. He saved their lives.

It is unlikely that as a Primary leader, Sunday School teacher, aunt, or neighbor that I will have the opportunity to save children from violence. But, in each of those roles, perhaps I can do just a little bit to save their souls.

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