The Right to Grow Up in a Healthy Family Might Save Our Communities

Where I come from, the golden rule to protect yourself is not to trust and to be rather aggressive in order to survive. My society has slowly lost the values of solidarity. I can remember my biggest encounter with violence when I was 9 years old. I was walking in the park and I observed how a grown up man nearly beat a young woman to death.

My mother’s lesson about it was: Don’t trust men. If you trust them, you might probably die. That’s how the record of a violent life made my mother think too. We didn’t know that as human beings we are all equal and that we all have dignity.

In another early experience, one of my neighborhood friends was married. We were both 12 at the time and I remember going out to play one day and not seeing her anymore. Besides that, my mother would warn me that if i ever saw her I shouldn’t play with her. The rumors that were never confirmed said that she was being sold by her mother.

The lesson I got? Parents have rights on their children’s lives. With family, you should be afraid to get married. It’s a disguise for abuse. That’s the way my young logic worked.

I lost the ability to see why family was important at all and how it can teach you the importance of the human person.

The memorial of Lexandro Guzman (15 YO, murdered in The Bronx), Image by blog author

But what is dignity? What is equality? Why do we have those? Can these be taken away from us? What is the role of the family in all this?

After my encounter with WYA and a long path of self healing triggered by the abuses I went through myself, I realized how misguided my biases on the idea of a family were. I came to the realization that my efforts on self-growth didn’t work because I was really far from understanding what I am as a person. I wasn’t totally sure of my potential and I didn’t know what solidarity actually meant.

As I saw in the course of my training, through the readings contained in the CTP or the sessions of The Person Project, the human person is the unity of body, mind and spirit. This phenomenon is experienced in the heart, shapes the intellect and is expressed in the will. The WYA Declaration on the Human Person explores the question “Who am I?,” or “Who is the human person?” As human beings, we are all equal in dignity. This is something inherent in all of us regardless of our nationality, religion, language, etc. The human person needs complete integral human development. This refers to all the aspects that form the human person (through work and success, cultural and artistic expression as well as spiritual development).

WYA’s Declaration on the Family believes that the family is the school of life. It is where every human learns the gift of love. It is where everyone develops the view of the human person and we learn to give value to ourselves and others.

Kids are fragile and impressionable beings that just came out to the world to learn what it means to be here. The experiences of our early years deeply affect how we perceive the reality of our environment. A wrong image of the family, and the human person per se, being taught to a child can leave subtle wounds on his/her moral or ethical behaviour in the older years. A kid raised without love and respect for him/her self or others shows difficulties in developing this emotional intelligence in older years.

Violence and sex exposition at a young age hazes the image we have of what a healthy community should look like and how we should contribute to it in order to maintain peace among each other. This situation would raise broken kids to think that survival is the right way of living, leaving aside the complete flourishing of the rest of the aspects that conform in the human being. At some extent, in a community where you can’t integrally develop, there’s no right way of living because we end up losing some of our humanity.

Unhealthy families create unhealthy communities and vice versa.

I wake up to read the news and I can’t help but sob quietly, astonished by the direction we are heading every day. I can’t help but feel an itch to go out and help kids that are victims of a violent environment. In the course of my internship, I discovered that the best way of addressing this problem is by protecting the family and the human dignity that is taught by it.

If I had the opportunity to go back in time and teach myself these principles before, I would calm my young worried mind by letting myself know that there are people around the world that actually care, and that they are doing all sorts of things to help. I would let myself know that young people need to be correctly educated to have a clear mind on how to fight against injustice and advocate for dignity to be respected. We need to protect kids from violence and teach them how to stand up by themselves.

One example is how the World Youth Alliance and its educational program, the Human Dignity Curriculum, seeks to help teach children at an early age the importance of the human person and solidarity with various tools that are accessible for institutions and individuals. I would love to give a shout out to the really moving Human Dignity Curriculum for showing many positive results on young kids and in the adult world around them. Find out how to implement this program here!

Written by Yustina Lang, an intern at the WYA Headquarters from the Dominican Republic