As youngsters, one of the things we often did was take shortcuts. In Whiting-Robertsdale, it didn’t take long for a kid to figure out ways to get from one place to another as quickly as possible. Sometimes, we took conventional routes and traveled streets. Other times, we’d used a combination of streets and alleys to get to our destination. As we grew older and more experienced with hometown geography, we added routes through neighborhood yards, empty lots, between buildings, across railroad tracks, and over fences. Our youthful energy and exuberance fueled our decision for the quickest way to get from here to there. Occasionally, we were scolded for not using the sidewalk, leaving a neighbor’s gate unlatched, stepping on someone’s lawn, scaling fences, and for trespassing a stranger’s property; but most of the time the shortcuts were uninterrupted passages through youth.
The vast majority of kids who used shortcuts knew it was a temporary means to an end. We realized as one grew older, shortcuts would be frowned upon and viewed as a character flaw: an unwillingness or irresponsibility to invest the necessary energy, effort, and commitment to properly complete a task. Today, we seem to be moving in a direction away from responsibility: at times, it resembles a stampede.
The evidence is everywhere. Countless times, corporate leaders, business tycoons, managers, white and blue collar employees search out, invent, and, (no pun intended) go out of their way, to find a shortcut to fulfill personal desires. Financial shenanigans, stealing, criminal acts, and misuse of invested funds are a few of the fraudulent practices employed by greedy, selfish individuals who prefer a self-serving shortcut to the good life. Honorable, dedicated employees are left with next to nothing after investing the majority of their working years in companies that turn their corporate backs on the very people who made them profitable.
Too many, politicians and government officials discard public trust and fill their pockets and personal coffers with hard-earned taxpayer dollars. What is not skimmed off is, many times, wasted on pet projects, kickbacks, and earmarks that embellish their image, power and political importance as they shortcut their way through public life. Their primary focus is not public service, but getting reelected. They so enjoy feeding at the public trough. Look at your elected officials and political leaders. Ask these questions: “Have they improved the quality of life? Have they been honorable stewards of taxpayers’ money? Have they improved the promise of America ? Can you see and feel the goodness of their public service? Or, is their time in office an accumulation of shortcuts to the taxpayer’s pockets? You decide.
Radio and television stations broadcast shortcuts by satellites and cable 24-7. Social, government, and business institutions once revered as the bedrock of American society are now ridiculed--weakened like rain-soaked cardboard castles. We’ve become conditioned to accept violence, corruption, and second-rate standards of behavior, personal conduct, and performance. Too many people no longer challenge vulgarity, sleazy media, slip-shod work, or immoral conduct. Good people are often mocked and derided as “out of touch.” Many years ago, there was a common phrase: “...going to hell in a hand basket.” Americans have found the shortcut and traffic is heavy.
How many parents and children spend quality time together as a family: at the dinner table, daily activities, or religious service? Who is there to teach children by word, deed, and example? How do fragmented families compensate children for absent parents and role models? Where do kids go for guidance, comfort, direction, belonging and love? Who is there to teach children the sacredness of being alive? Shortcuts.
How many children arrive at the school house door unable to read or write, ill-behaved, ill-fed, un-nurtured and unloved? Far too many parents take the shortcut to child rearing leaving parenting responsibilities to the school. How many children arrive each day in classrooms unprepared for class, sleep deprived, angry, upset, and, in some cases, over medicated? How many children end their day without nightly prayers, bedtime stories, and warm hugs and kisses? Shortcuts.
The sad thing about all of this is that once conditioned to such a mind set, a person will seek shortcuts all through life. In our modern world we see evidence of shortcuts across the board. Too often, our own cleverness does us in. Americans want honest, effective government, financial success, economic well-being, security, and freedom; but are too busy to study issues, contact representatives, make our voices heard and exercise our duty as citizens. Our complaints and excuses are many—ballots cast are few. Shortcuts. When one thinks about it, so many want so much using a shortcut: respect, friendship, commitment, trust, success, honor, celebrity, importance, and love. And, the ultimate arrogance: wanting a shortcut to Heaven, unwilling to follow the Word and pay the price. We’re all on a similar journey, headed for the same destination; once upon a time, taking a shortcut was cool. Today, maybe we should find a better way.