As the parent of a boy, I am totally aware of their desire to; push boundaries, take risks and create an adrenalin rush. Perhaps not every boy, but definitely mine. From 11 months of age, my son was climbing out of his cot, from the age of 2, he was the child climbing on top of the playground next to the sign that says 'please do not climb on top of the playground equipment'. He also had quite a knack to his sneaky, disappearing acts. One particularly involved two flights of stairs and eating cat food from the tin. I was constantly on my toes.
On Tuesday 24th January, I was returning home from St Kilda, Victoria on the 11pm train after a concert. Our train abruptly stopped at the Malvern station and it was announced there was an incident at the next stop, Caulfield station. The train then powered down and we were left sitting there, unaware of what was taking place up ahead. Discussions between passengers began to take place at a whisper, wondering what this 'incident' was.
Camberwell teenager James Wilkinson, returning home from a party, had been train surfing with friends. James came into contact with live wires and his life ended that night.
For most people, I would suggest that the idea of ducking under low overpasses, dodging 1,500-volt DC electrical wires, and maintaining one's balance, all while atop a train moving up to, or in excess of, 80 kilometres per hour, offers little appeal.
As I look at a photo of James Wilkinson, I see a gentle young man, with a lot of fun, mischief, joy and confidence in his life. It would seem that his life was 'cut short' or 'ended too soon'.
His parents Tim and Audrey Wilkinson were obviously extremely distraught and upset with the loss of their son and urged others to consider their actions.
"You have just got to stop and think," Mr Wilkinson said. "Life's so short. It's such a final thing.
"They've all got so much to look forward to and it's just taken away from them by impulsive decisions that are also influenced by alcohol." (www.news.com.au)
James is not alone in his desire for a thrill. In 2004 in Cheshire England, a 14 year old had his lower limbs amputated due to a train surfing attempt gone wrong. In South Africa, it is a huge problem. 19 year old Thabo Thedise knows his hobby is dangerous. "Yes, I can fall, but I can phone my mum, she can take me to the doctor," he says. Lebohang Motsamai says he plays these games to impress girls. "Because when I do this, they are going to love me. They are going to say, eish, this boy is clever." (news.bbc.co.uk) In 1989 alone, gruesome train surfing accidents killed 150 Brazilian kids and injured 170 more.
"I am the Kelly Slater of train surfing." These words were typed by James Wilkinson on Facebook some 12 months before his death.
There are many dangerous games that teens play for thrills, fun, popularity and excitement. In Washington in 2011, a study was done on mice showing that the brain undergoes changes in adolescence that suppress fearful experiences learned in childhood. This new study could explain why teenagers act so brashly at times. "An examination of the brain activity in the adolescent mice showed that the two areas of the brain associated with processing experiences of fear - the basal amygdala and the hippocampus - were exhibiting lower levels of activity". (www.cosmosmagazine.com)
I know as a teen some 15 years ago, there were many things I did, that I would not do now.
Fear can negatively affect a person's life, paralysing activity. 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."
God's Word does teach that we should not have a spirit of fear, but the fearless confidence found in the Bible is generated by a standard not based on self, but on God.
"Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23, teaches us that a man's heart is the centre of the issues of life; consequently, how we view ourselves is important in recognising and answering the issues of our lives.
Each and every one of us is special to God. He grieves every loss of life. He is a God of life, love and redemption. He can see the bigger picture when we can only see a snapshot.
May the youth of today realise how precious they are.
Belinda Croft has just relocated from Queensland to Victoria after her recent marriage to Russell. She has a heart and passion for God, mission and social justice.
Belinda Croft's archive of articles may be viewed at: www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html