Standing on Calle Santander, the main street of Panajachel Guatemala, I found myself in a conversation that seemed too weird to really be happening. I was talking with an indigenous Kaqchikel man. His long flowing coal black hair and distinctive Mayan features were striking against the brightly colored clothing that was part of his traditional Mayan dress imposed upon his people by the Spanish conquistadors. We were discussing his background which led to a discussion about his three daughters – two of whom I had just met.
All three were impressive young Mayan women. The youngest was finishing high school, one was in college and the oldest was finishing her law degree – astounding accomplishments for indigenous kids – but especially girls – in rural Guatemala. The two girls there that night were also dressed in the typical clothing of their Mayan people and were obviously well mannered and cultured young women. I asked how he had managed to raise such wonderful and confident young women despite their background of poverty where women are usually treated as property to be used, abused and tossed aside. His answer caused me to shake my head in disbelief.
He had become a believer in Jesus as a young boy when missionaries came to his small village. He could not understand why rich, white people would come all the way out to his town. He figured the message they brought must be very important – so he listened, believed and his life changed from that moment on. He worked hard and made a good life for himself as an entrepreneur but here is where the story got weird.
“Many of my friends, even Christian friends, ask why my girls are so different. Why are they so kind, loving, devoted to me, to the family and to the Lord. I tell them, they can’t let their kids watch all that cable TV and expect them to turn out right.”
What?! Even in the remote mountains of Guatemala families are battling cable TV? Am I the only one that thought perhaps you could escape TV by going to some remote spot in the mountains of a developing nation where many of the people don’t have running water in their homes?
But apparently even there many parents are battling with the influence of cable TV – and many are losing the battle? But not this guy.
He went on to say his girls weren’t always happy with him monitoring and limiting their TV time but that was the one thing he thought made the biggest difference between his girls and the other late teen, early 20-something kids in the area. I wanted to book him for a speaking tour in churches in the US. That is a message that needs to be proclaimed to Christian parents everywhere.
“You can’t let your kids fill their hearts with all that junk on TV and expect anything good is going to come out of their lives.” For whatever is in your heart determines what comes out. Matthew 12:34
a tale by an anonymous story teller
A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours. If I wanted to know about politics, history, or science, he knew it all.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see movies and even arranged to introduce us to several movie stars. My brother and I were particularly impressed by John Wayne.
The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind but sometimes, while we were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places, Mom would quietly get up and go to her room to read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.
You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity was not allowed in our house. But our visitor occassionally used a four-letter word that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted. My dad didn’t permit alcohol in our home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt we needed exposure to other ways of life. He made beer, alcohol, even cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely (probably too freely) about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. Even at mealtime he would discuss issues without regard to the tender ears that might be listening. Sometimes the topics caused mom to leave the table! My early concepts of sex and the male/female relationship were influenced more by the stranger than anyone else.
As I look back, I believe it was the grace of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.
More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our young family on Morningside Drive. He is not nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was in those early years. But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today he would still be sitting in the corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
He never told us his name — we always just called him by his initials: T.V.