Last updated: August 24. 2013 6:49PM - 39 Views

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I was asked recently to write a letter to a young person entering confirmation classes. Nothing new or unique about that. Every country and culture has its own version of the coming-of-age ceremony. But the assignment took me back nearly 40 years, reminiscing on my own ascent to the grown-ups table. I wrote to my young friend out of my memories of being her age — back when it was all new, at least to me and my classmates.I remember the joys and frustrations you must be experiencing, I wrote to her, but I'm sure you've learned by now it's not that simple: None of the grown-ups can agree on exactly when you become one of them. For the next seven years — and probably for years beyond that — people will say you're old enough to know this or to do that; and then, they'll turn around and say you're not old enough yet to do something else without their permission. And, heaven forbid, there are still some topics you just don't discuss.And because you're becoming a young woman — and a very pretty young woman at that — I'm sure your journey will be even more complicated than mine was. I can only guess about that, never having been a woman myself. But I know many who insist this is true.Remember, it's hard for parents to see their daughters and sons grow up. Their instinct is to continue protecting you. Sometimes they'll say you're not old enough even to know about certain things. Well, you and I know that's not realistic. Internet and cable television changed all that. If parents and grandparents realized how much their kids already knew, it would frighten us, so we tend not to think or talk about this very much. Young people are exposed to more information, at a younger age, than their parents ever hoped to know. They want to protect you from the violent, hateful, hurtful and downright ugly things that seem to populate every dark corner of our world.The irony is that most of the ugly things are rooted in ignorance. Darkness hates the light. Ignorance hates knowledge. Liars hate truth. Cheaters hate justice.If only the adults would just calmly, patiently help you sort it all out. Get it to make sense for you. In a perfect world, you'd be able to ask any question, and the grown-ups around you wouldn't get upset. They'd give explanations that help clear up all the darkness and confusion. You've found out that doesn't always happen, does it?There's a song I remember from my own teenage years. It included the line: “Information is not knowledge; knowledge is not wisdom; wisdom is not truth; truth is not beauty; beauty is not love. Love is the best!” I used to laugh at that line. Thirty-five years later, I'm beginning to understand it. Love does pull together all the rest, and makes it understandable. When I was a young Catholic preparing for my own confirmation, we were taught the line, “God is love.” I believe it. God and love are the same thing — and the source of all these other good things. And love really is the best.So what does this have to do with becoming a grown-up? Well, so far in your life, adults have provided for your every need. Now, it's your turn to start providing for your own needs — and for their needs, too. You become part of the community that looks out for each other.And you know what? Love makes that happen, too. Another culture would call your confirmation “bat mitzvah” — it means “daughter of the commandment.” It means you're old enough to understand God's rules and follow them on your own. It means the godparents who stood up for you at your baptism still love and support you, but you're old enough not to need them anymore as your stand-in. Now you stand beside them as their equal.Confirmation brings you into a bigger family. You now become responsible for yourself, but you also become responsible for each one of them. And they're all responsible for you. There are simple words for this. One is community. Another is church.The truth is, there is a lot of growing up still ahead of you. But I don't say that to put you in your place. I'm still growing up, too. So is every adult. The quest for truth and wisdom never stops. At least, it shouldn't.So, confirmation is the first rung on the ladder of adulthood. It's a good time to start seeing eye-to-eye with the adults in your life. Think about how they're treating you now, and how you plan to treat people your age 20 years from now.And I'd like to think you can ask me any question you'd like and expect an honest answer. From one grown-up to another. And I'll try my level best not to get too uptight.You can comment on this story at www.limaohio.com.

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