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Posts Tagged ‘The Children’s Society’

 

child-soldier-empty-road

Our children . . . .  should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children is in our time a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition – it cuts across them all.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

From time to time it comes to seem appropriate to republish a much earlier sequence from 2009 on the Bahá’í approach to healing our wounded world. Recent events across many countries again makes it seem timely to revisit this sequence. The sequence will end tomorrow.

The Plight of Children World-Wide

Facts from UNICEF spell out the horrific reality.

26,575 children die every single day. Of the 62 countries making no progress or insufficient progress towards the Millennium Development Goal on child survival, nearly 75 per cent are in Africa. In some countries in southern Africa, the prevalence of HIV and AIDS has reversed previously recorded declines in child mortality. Achieving the goal in these countries will require a concerted effort. Reaching the target means reducing the number of child deaths from 9.7 million in 2006 to around 4 million by 2015.

Accomplishing this will require accelerated action on multiple fronts: reducing poverty and hunger (MDG 1), improving maternal health (MDG 5), combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other major diseases (MDG 6), increasing the usage of improved water and sanitation (MDG 7) and providing affordable essential drugs on a sustainable basis (MDG 8). It will also require a re-examination of strategies to reach the poorest, most marginalized communities.

It grieves our hearts to realise that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimisation too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by parents themselves upon their own children.The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation.

(Universal House of Justice: ibid)

UNICEF sources indicate that trafficking in children is a global problem affecting large numbers of children. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year. There is a demand for trafficked children as cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking, believing that better employment and lives lie in other countries. Most child casualties are civilians.

We should not ignore our complicity in unacceptable abuses of children either, as a recent BBC documentary on Apple products indicates (this will be available to view for another nine months). Child labour is clearly involved in some aspects of production though the exact level can be hard to track as John Fitzgerald Medina explains in his excellent book Faith, Physics & Psychology (page 246):

Many of the foreign foods and products that Americans buy may have been harvested or produced through the use of child labour. Accountability is difficult because the several components that make up a product may change hands several times before they reach their final form and destination.

As an enthusiastic coffee drinker I am disturbed also to read (page 245):

Benta Adera, for instance, a twelve-year-old Kenyan girl, spends ten hours every day picking coffee beans under the relentless scorching sun. As a result of the hazardous pesticides that are used on the plants, she experiences constant pain.

But one of the most deplorable developments in recent years has been the increasing use of young children as soldiers. In one sense, this is not really new. For centuries children have been involved in military campaigns—as child ratings on warships, or as drummer boys on the battlefields of Europe. Indeed the word ‘infantry’, for foot-soldiers, can also mean a group of young people. What is frightening nowadays is the escalation in the use of children as fighters. Recently, in 25 countries, thousands of children under the age of 16 have fought in wars. In 1988 alone, they numbered as many as 200,000. And while children might be thought to be the people deserving greatest protection, as soldiers they are often considered the most expendable. During the Iran-Iraq war, child soldiers, for example, were sent out ahead in waves over minefields.

The UK Situation

And horrors happen to children in this country too. The Children’s Society‘s recent report has once again highlighted the issue of whether our society is damaging children: this time the focus is on the self-centred individualism of too many of its adults.

BBC News Online, on Monday 2 February 2009 reported on this in these words:

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

So, whether they live in the developed or developing world,

It must be borne in mind . . .  that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely, and among these are those who look for standards and discipline by which to guide their lives.

(Universal House of Justice: Ridván 2000)

Why does it matter so much?

The House of Justice explain why this is so important:

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

There is therefore an

. . . imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. . .

(Universal House of Justice: 20 October 2008

A consideration of what we are to do about all this follows in the next post tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

 

child-soldier-empty-road

Our children . . . .  should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children is in our time a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition – it cuts across them all.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

I have embarked on sequences of new posts which examine a number of ideas from books I have recently read.These ideas relate to where our society is heading and what we as individuals might be able to do about that. I decided that I also needed to republish other posts from the past that related in some way to that basic theme. The post below was first published in 2009. Sadly, it does not seem any less relevant now as the updates to this post show.

The Plight of Children World-Wide

Facts from UNICEF spell out the horrific reality.

26,575 children die every single day. Of the 62 countries making no progress or insufficient progress towards the Millennium Development Goal on child survival, nearly 75 per cent are in Africa. In some countries in southern Africa, the prevalence of HIV and AIDS has reversed previously recorded declines in child mortality. Achieving the goal in these countries will require a concerted effort. Reaching the target means reducing the number of child deaths from 9.7 million in 2006 to around 4 million by 2015.

Accomplishing this will require accelerated action on multiple fronts: reducing poverty and hunger (MDG 1), improving maternal health (MDG 5), combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other major diseases (MDG 6), increasing the usage of improved water and sanitation (MDG 7) and providing affordable essential drugs on a sustainable basis (MDG 8). It will also require a re-examination of strategies to reach the poorest, most marginalized communities.

It grieves our hearts to realise that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimisation too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by parents themselves upon their own children.The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation.

(Universal House of Justice: ibid)

UNICEF sources indicate that trafficking in children is a global problem affecting large numbers of children. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year. There is a demand for trafficked children as cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking, believing that better employment and lives lie in other countries. Most child casualties are civilians.

We should not ignore our complicity in unacceptable abuses of children either, as a recent BBC documentary on Apple products indicates (this will be available to view for another nine months). Child labour is clearly involved in some aspects of production though the exact level can be hard to track as John Fitzgerald Medina explains in his excellent book Faith, Physics & Psychology (page 246):

Many of the foreign foods and products that Americans buy may have been harvested or produced through the use of child labour. Accountability is difficult because the several components that make up a product may change hands several times before they reach their final form and destination.

As an enthusiastic coffee drinker I am disturbed also to read (page 245):

Benta Adera, for instance, a twelve-year-old Kenyan girl, spends ten hours every day picking coffee beans under the relentless scorching sun. As a result of the hazardous pesticides that are used on the plants, she experiences constant pain.

But one of the most deplorable developments in recent years has been the increasing use of young children as soldiers. In one sense, this is not really new. For centuries children have been involved in military campaigns—as child ratings on warships, or as drummer boys on the battlefields of Europe. Indeed the word ‘infantry’, for foot-soldiers, can also mean a group of young people. What is frightening nowadays is the escalation in the use of children as fighters. Recently, in 25 countries, thousands of children under the age of 16 have fought in wars. In 1988 alone, they numbered as many as 200,000. And while children might be thought to be the people deserving greatest protection, as soldiers they are often considered the most expendable. During the Iran-Iraq war, child soldiers, for example, were sent out ahead in waves over minefields.

The UK Situation

And horrors happen to children in this country too. The Children’s Society‘s recent report has once again highlighted the issue of whether our society is damaging children: this time the focus is on the self-centred individualism of too many of its adults.

BBC News Online, on Monday 2 February 2009 reported on this in these words:

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

So, whether they live in the developed or developing world,

It must be borne in mind . . .  that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely, and among these are those who look for standards and discipline by which to guide their lives.

(Universal House of Justice: Ridván 2000)

Why does it matter so much?

The House of Justice explain why this is so important:

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

There is therefore an

. . . imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. . .

(Universal House of Justice: 20 October 2008

A consideration of what we are to do about all this follows in the next post tomorrow.

Read Full Post »

I have embarked on sequences of new posts which examine a number of ideas from books I have recently read. These ideas relate to where our society is heading and what we as individuals might be able to do about that. I decided that I also needed to republish other posts from the past that related in some way to that basic theme. This post was first published in 2009. 

Excessive Individualism

The Children’s Society‘s recent report has once again highlighted the issue of whether our society is damaging children: this time the focus is on the self-centred individualism of too many of its adults.

BBC News Online, on Monday 2 February reported on this in these words:

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

Layard and Dunn, in an article in the  Sunday Times on 1st February unpack aspects of what this means. They describe four styles of parenting and point out what they feel is the optimal:

disciplined, authoritative, neglectful and permissive. Researchers have studied the effects of each upon the way in which children develop. They agree that the style that is loving and yet firm – now known in the jargon as authoritative – is the most effective. In this approach boundaries are explained, in the context of a warm, loving relationship.

They also refer to other things such as mutual respect, commitment and education in parenting.

Soul-Stirring Message

Working with Children

Working with Children

In April 2000 a message of great passion and power emanated from the Universal House of Justice. It included these words about children:

Our children . . . .  should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children is in our time a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition – it cuts across them all. It grieves our hearts to realise that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimisation too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by parents themselves upon their own children. The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation. Our worldwide community cannot escape the consequences of these conditions. This realisation should spur us all to urgent and sustained action in the interests of children and the future.

Since then the world-wide Bahá’í community has been striving to mobilise itself more effectively. We are seeking to create an increased capacity, both within the ranks of the Faith’s adherents and within the throngs of people who also feel passionately about the future of our children and young people, so that we can throw our weight behind this absolutely critical work of nurturing our children and protecting them from the worst consequences of our mistakes, work which is so close to the hearts of so many of the world’s billions.

The message of April 2000 went on to say:

The necessity exists, too, for individuals and . . .  institutions at all levels, which is to say the community as a whole, to show a proper attitude towards children and to take a general interest in their welfare.

What is true for us is, of course, true for everyone.

What Can We Do?

Is there more that we can do than is already being suggested?

Clearly there is. Many communities, organisations and religious groups have asked themselves this same question and are moving heaven and earth to address this critical issue. The Bahá’í Community has done the same. The whole community is supporting an educational programme for the education of children and youth (there are two posts being republished on this topic soon). There are other initiatives that have been taken as well. A good example in the UK is the Swindon Youth Empowerment Project.

The Project offers experiences designed to enable young people to came into contact with themselves as spiritual beings, as ‘… a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.’ The overall aim of the project is to develop a “Healthy Human Spirit” and it is inspired by the principles of the Bahá’í Faith as a service to the community. It sees  every child as ‘potentially the light of the world.’ However because a child is also potentially ‘its darkness’

the question of education [should] be accounted as of primary importance. From his infancy, the child must be nursed at the breast of God’s love, and nurtured in the embrace of His knowledge, that he may radiate light, grow in spirituality, be filled with wisdom and learning, and take on the characteristics of the angelic host.

(Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Section 103)

The project draws on the words of the 2004 OFSTED Report to define its purpose as:

… the training of good human beings, purposeful and wise, themselves with a vision of what it is to be human and the kind of society that makes that possible.

A recent book by Viv Bartlett – Nurturing a Healthy Human Spirit in the Young gives an excellent account of the youth empowerment process. In his introduction he explains the overall purpose (page xx):

The main aim of this book, then, is to focus on the human spirit in the young. It argues that this spirit needs ‘light’ to function properly and that it is entirely incapable of releasing its inestimable potential without it. It is a book about ‘turning this light on,’ in terms of those insights, understandings and relationships that every young person craves, whether disaffected, troubled or not, even though they may not be aware of what it is that keeps them ‘in the dark.’

Unremitting Effort

cc-2

Tending the Needs of Children

Wherever we are able to throw our weight behind this wheel, we have to be aware that it is not the work of a day, a month, a year or even a decade. This work will take a generation and beyond to accomplish. It will not be achieved by governments, though they can help it along. It will not be achieved by schools and colleges alone, though they need to be in there working at it, as some of them do. It is not just for youth leaders and charities though their efforts are essential and highly praiseworthy. Even parents are not the only ones upon whom this responsibility weighs.

This work is for all of us to contribute to in some way or other, if not by work then by money, support, encouragement or prayer –  or whatever else we can do, however little it may seem to be.

If we do not then how else can we as a society respond to

. . . . the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character.

Or realise

. . . the full significance of [our] efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities.

(From  a letter written by the Universal House of Justice: 20 October 2008)

We none of us can do this by ourselves. But just imagine what can be achieved if everyone in this country and throughout the world does just a little. Together we can build a future for our children. It is not yet too late. Is there any work more important than this?

Read Full Post »

Our children . . . .  should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children is in our time a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition – it cuts across them all.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

The Plight of Children World-Wide

Facts from UNICEF spell out the horrific reality.

26,575 children die every single day. Of the 62 countries making no progress or insufficient progress towards the Millennium Development Goal on child survival, nearly 75 per cent are in Africa. In some countries in southern Africa, the prevalence of HIV and AIDS has reversed previously recorded declines in child mortality. Achieving the goal in these countries will require a concerted effort. Reaching the target means reducing the number of child deaths from 9.7 million in 2006 to around 4 million by 2015.

Accomplishing this will require accelerated action on multiple fronts: reducing poverty and hunger (MDG 1), improving maternal health (MDG 5), combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other major diseases (MDG 6), increasing the usage of improved water and sanitation (MDG 7) and providing affordable essential drugs on a sustainable basis (MDG 8). It will also require a re-examination of strategies to reach the poorest, most marginalized communities.

It grieves our hearts to realise that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimisation too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by parents themselves upon their own children.The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation.

(Universal House of Justice: ibid)

UNICEF sources indicate that trafficking in children is a global problem affecting large numbers of children. Some estimates have as many as 1.2 million children being trafficked every year. There is a demand for trafficked children as cheap labour or for sexual exploitation. Children and their families are often unaware of the dangers of trafficking, believing that better employment and lives lie in other countries. Most child casualties are civilians.

But one of the most deplorable developments in recent years has been the increasing use of young children as soldiers. In one sense, this is not really new. For centuries children have been involved in military campaigns—as child ratings on warships, or as drummer boys on the battlefields of Europe. Indeed the word ‘infantry’, for foot-soldiers, can also mean a group of young people. What is frightening nowadays is the escalation in the use of children as fighters. Recently, in 25 countries, thousands of children under the age of 16 have fought in wars. In 1988 alone, they numbered as many as 200,000. And while children might be thought to be the people deserving greatest protection, as soldiers they are often considered the most expendable. During the Iran-Iraq war, child soldiers, for example, were sent out ahead in waves over minefields.

The UK Situation

And horrors happen to children in this country too. The Children’s Society‘s recent report has once again highlighted the issue of whether our society is damaging children: this time the focus is on the self-centred individualism of too many of its adults.

BBC News Online, on Monday 2 February 2009 reported on this in these words:

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

So, whether they live in the developed or developing world,

It must be borne in mind . . .  that children live in a world that informs them of harsh realities through direct experience with the horrors already described or through the outpourings of the mass media. Many of them are thereby forced to mature prematurely, and among these are those who look for standards and discipline by which to guide their lives.

(Universal House of Justice: Ridván 2000)

Why does it matter so much?

The House of Justice explain why this is so important:

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity.

(Universal House of Justice: April 2000)

There is therefore an

. . . imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character. . .

(Universal House of Justice: 20 October 2008

A consideration of what we are to do about all this follows in the next post.

Read Full Post »

Excessive Individualism

The Children’s Society‘s recent report has once again highlighted the issue of whether our society is damaging children: this time the focus is on the self-centred individualism of too many of its adults.

BBC News Online, on Monday 2 February reported on this in these words:

According to the panel, “excessive individualism” is to blame for many of the problems children face and needs to be replaced by a value system where people seek satisfaction more from helping others rather than pursuing private advantage.

Layard and Dunn, in an article in the  Sunday Times on 1st February unpack aspects of what this means. They describe four styles of parenting and point out what they feel is the optimal:

disciplined, authoritative, neglectful and permissive. Researchers have studied the effects of each upon the way in which children develop. They agree that the style that is loving and yet firm – now known in the jargon as authoritative – is the most effective. In this approach boundaries are explained, in the context of a warm, loving relationship.

They also refer to other things such as mutual respect, commitment and education in parenting.

Soul-Stirring Message

Working with Children

Working with Children

In April 2000 a message of great passion and power emanated from the Bahá’í World Centre. It included these words about children:

Our children . . . .  should not be left to drift in a world so laden with moral dangers. In the current state of society, children face a cruel fate. Millions and millions in country after country are dislocated socially. Children find themselves alienated by parents and other adults whether they live in conditions of wealth or poverty. This alienation has its roots in a selfishness that is born of materialism that is at the core of the godlessness seizing the hearts of people everywhere. The social dislocation of children is in our time a sure mark of a society in decline; this condition is not, however, confined to any race, class, nation or economic condition – it cuts across them all. It grieves our hearts to realise that in so many parts of the world children are employed as soldiers, exploited as labourers, sold into virtual slavery, forced into prostitution, made objects of pornography, abandoned by parents centred on their own desires, and subjected to other forms of victimisation too numerous to mention. Many such horrors are inflicted by parents themselves upon their own children. The spiritual and psychological damage defies estimation. Our worldwide community cannot escape the consequences of these conditions. This realisation should spur us all to urgent and sustained action in the interests of children and the future.

Since then the world-wide Bahá’í community has been striving to mobilise itself more effectively. We are seeking to create an increased capacity, both within the ranks of the Faith’s adherents and within the throngs of people who also feel passionately about the future of our children and young people, so that we can throw our weight behind this absolutely critical work of nurturing our children and protecting them from the worst consequences of our mistakes, work which is so close to the hearts of so many of the world’s billions.

The message of April 2000 went on to say:

The necessity exists, too, for individuals and . . .  institutions at all levels, which is to say the community as a whole, to show a proper attitude towards children and to take a general interest in their welfare.

What is true for us is, of course, true for everyone.

What Can We Do?

Is there more that we can do than is already being suggested?

Clearly there is. Many communities, organisations and religious groups have asked themselves this same question and are moving heaven and earth to address this critical issue. The Bahá’í Community has done the same.

A good example in the UK is the Swindon Youth Empowerment Project.

The Project offers experiences designed to enable young people to came into contact with themselves as spiritual beings, as ‘… a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.’ The overall aim of the project is to develop a “Healthy Human Spirit” and it is inspired by the principles of the Bahá’í Faith as a service to the community. It sees  every child as ‘potentially the light of the world.’ However because a child is also potentially ‘its darkness’

the question of education [should] be accounted as of primary importance. From his infancy, the child must be nursed at the breast of God’s love, and nurtured in the embrace of His knowledge, that he may radiate light, grow in spirituality, be filled with wisdom and learning, and take on the characteristics of the angelic host.

(Selected Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Section 103)

The project draws on the words of the 2004 OFSTED Report to define its purpose as:

… the training of good human beings, purposeful and wise, themselves with a vision of what it is to be human and the kind of society that makes that possible.

Unremitting Effort

cc-2

Tending the Needs of Children

Wherever we are able to throw our weight behind this wheel, we have to be aware that it is not the work of a day, a month, a year or even a decade. This work will take a generation and beyond to accomplish. It will not be achieved by governments, though they can help it along. It will not be achieved by schools and colleges alone, though they need to be in there working at it, as some of them do. It is not just for youth leaders and charities though their efforts are essential and highly praiseworthy. Even parents are not the only ones upon whom this responsibility weighs.

This work is for all of us to contribute to in some way or other, if not by work then by money, support, encouragement or prayer –  or whatever else we can do, however little it may seem to be.

If we do not then how else can we as a society respond to

. . . . the imperative to tend to the needs of the children of the world and offer them lessons that develop their spiritual faculties and lay the foundations of a noble and upright character.

Or realise

. . . the full significance of [our] efforts to help young people form a strong moral identity in their early adolescent years and empower them to contribute to the well-being of their communities.

(From  a letter written by the international council of the Bahá’ís: 20 October 2008)

We none of us can do this by ourselves. But just imagine what can be achieved if everyone in this country and throughout the world does just a little. Together we can build a future for our children. It is not yet too late. Is there any work more important than this?

Read Full Post »