At Euterpe, the Young Adult imprint of Musa, we publish books intended for children and teenagers--mostly middle school and high school aged, but a few for younger kids. Most people would say that it’s a characteristic of that age group to live for the now—for them, the past is irrelevant and the future is far away. In general, that’s true, because in terms of brain development, that’s what they can do. They are not programmed at this stage in their lives to see their existence as part of the vast roll of history, past and future.
And yet, if you want commitment, passion, and sacrifice, you’ll never find a more reliable group of people. Any one of these young people would fight for a cause they believed in, sacrifice for a friend, or assume leadership and expend energy to right a wrong they see around them—not in the abstract, but right now.
|Image courtesy of the Saturday Evening Post|
And as adults, we’re pretty inconsistent in our leadership. We tell them, “Don’t grow up so fast,” and then, “Quit being so immature.” We tell them, “Believe in your dreams and work to make them happen,” and then we say, “That job will never bring you stability, security, health insurance.” We say, “I’m really proud of you for being who you are,” and then suggest, “Here are a few things you should fix about yourself.”
What is the solution to all these mixed messages? In some ways, there isn’t one. They’re going to become adults, anyway, and we have to prepare them for that—even while we want them to savor their fleeting youth.
But there’s one element in guiding youth that ancient cultures understood better than we do. Stories. From the time our children are small, we should be telling them stories, and we can’t stop when they get too big to crawl in our lap and hear the old fairy tales.
So sometimes, instead of saying, “You should appreciate how hard others have worked to give you the life that you have now,” or “you should appreciate your family,” (and really, who responds well to any sentence that starts with “you should?”), try telling the story of their great-grandfather, who boarded a ship in another country when he was 19, and came here, never seeing his parents or brothers or sisters again.
If you want your teens to appreciate their education and their opportunities, instead of bugging them about grades, tell them the story of the aunt who dropped out of school because she wanted to do things her way…and after she worked for a year at low-paying, menial jobs, decided that “her way” wasn’t getting her anywhere, took her GED and went to college, and is now a therapist working with troubled youth.
For that matter, tell them about King David and Queen Esther, Hercules and Confucius, Percy Jackson and Harry Potter, Joan of Arc and Mulan, the teenagers who hid their Jewish schoolmates in the Nazi era, the 13-year-old slaves who escaped their plantations to fight for freedom for all their people…history, fiction, and imagination provide no end to stories of young men and women who will connect to and inspire our young men and women.
A story has more power in it than a direct order does. An order can be enforced, but a story can inspire. On this Memorial Day weekend, we tell the story of those we cannot and must not forget. Some of them are abstract—“those who have sacrificed to give us our freedoms”—but some of them are connected—“your Aunt Brenda’s first husband, who was killed in Vietnam when he was only 19.”
If we want our young people to remember the past and look to the future, we must tell them the stories. With that in mind, we at Euterpe would like to give away two of our most powerful stories on this Memorial Day weekend.
One is the story of a young boy who has heard the stories of heroes his whole life. In The Champion of Justice and Freedom, young Tate Terwilliger is inspired by these stories to right the wrongs he sees in his own life—sometimes with unexpected results! This is a humorous and touching story perfect for 3rd through 6th graders.
And then there’s Ripples: A Novel in Stories of 9-11. In this collection of interlocking short stories, we see the stories of several young people struggling to bring redemption from the horrific losses of 9-11-01. Each of their lives touches the others as they try to rebuild a world that was blown apart on one fateful day.
If you’d like to win one of these wonderful books, Follow us here, leave a comment here (don’t forget to mention which book you’d like!) and like us on Facebook at EuterpeYABooks. We’re also on Twitter under the same name.
Here at Euterpe, we give thanks for all those who have sacrificed for freedoms, and we promise to keep telling the stories.