Off the Wall, Aug 14, 2009

A number of years ago, when I was first introduced to the computer, my son was far ahead of me when it came to the understanding of the ins and outs of this machine. Then, there was no possible way I could have ever caught up to his achievements. Now it’s like trying to sight him through a telescope on the moon. His “full throttle” pursuits are so overwhelming that it’s better I don’t talk technology with him.

I will say that I did enjoy Nintendo when he first showed me how to play the game, but I found it given away to someone in the family, and I was back to square one. But that wasn’t bad by any length of the imagination. A matter of fact, I think it turned out to be a very good thing.

So, you may be asking yourself, “Hey Volkmann, where are you going with this thing?” I’ll tell you, and I’m certainly not going to “tip toe through the tulips” concerning how obsessed youth and young adults have become fixated with renting video games.

Over the last so many months I have visited friends and relatives only to find the children with bags of games they either brought with them to other people’s homes or had in their possession quantities of videos they had rented so one member of the family or visiting companions could take turns playing against the others using hand-held devices. It seemed over a period of time, anytime I visited a particular home, the kids were battling each other, pushing buttons and yelling at the TV sets in boisterous fashion.

I was reminded of this behavior during a conversation a friend and I were having a few weeks ago. We had just visited the residence of Kathy and Ted Carns, III in Laughlintown. You may remember my Inside the Outdoors column where I mentioned visiting their property along with 24 students from the 2009 Westmoreland County Conservation School. To say I was impressed by what the environmentalist had shown us and described the progress he made ever since rebuilding his property over the last 33 years blew-me-away. I never met one man who practiced what he preached to the nth degree – “0-waste,” recycling everything.

Latrobe resident Walt Poole was so gracious as to not only invite me to attend, but actually drove me there and then took me to the headquarters at Keystone State Park where the day’s activities were finalized by a superb dinner hand-prepared for the campers, directors, bus driver, and yours truly.

As we motored toward the lake, we began discussing how many youth today are actually missing out on great outdoor opportunities such as the school’s teens experienced. These games are blinding them from great opportunities, we concluded.

I can’t speak for Walt, but I can share a bit of the fun we had going on hikes, making little forts out of branches, and playing hide and seek in the woods right near my homes. Money wasn’t a factor. Making full use of the God-given creations meant everything to us. I remember spending hours creating new paths, wondering what was over the next hill just ahead. Sometimes, just my dog and I would go. We would get to the top of a hill and just sit overlooking the scenery. Getting to this point was like reaching the pot at the end of the rainbow. But very much the same, when I entered the Carns’ property, yes, I was in the denseness of the wooded lands, and true, much did look familiar, but still, there was more to be discovered. Through the fine hospitality, the self-taught ecologist of God’s dominion showed us what we could do if we really wanted to conserve nature.

The bottom line is this. Parents, limit the use of the video games and computers. There’s work to be done and places to be discovered. Remind your children of your growing up years without the machines, and then head for the hills discovering the full richness God has for you. You’ll be opening a new world that may excite them more.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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