Re: Kids & work & rites of passage
From: Denise Cote' (
Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 11:05:32 -0600
Mike Mariner said:
>One of the many shortcomings of mainstream society is a dearth of rites of
>passage that mark the changes in freedoms and responsibilities when we enter
>a new life stage.  These stages don't have to be limited to birth, puberty,
>marriage, death.  Most of us go through pretty major changes every 7 to 10
>years.  If we start celebrating rites of passage, it will become clear for
>all ages what expectations go with a stage.  As young folks are taking on
>more of the hard labor, elders transition to being "wise elders."

A few years ago I participated in a rite of passage for a group of 15 
adolescents. They went on a 5-day vision quest in the Utah desert with 
several adult supervisors.  I was a "dreamwalker" along with 3 other 
people.  The dreamwalkers had almost no direct contact with the 
teenagers--we stayed in the background, invisible (even the adult 
supervisors didn't know where we were or what we were up to), 
orchestrating a series of events and experiences over the course of a few 
days that culminated in passing through a "gateway" (we used a natural 
arch) and a solo overnight for each of the kids/young adults.

Something very powerful and transformative occurred during those 5 days, 
not just for the vision questers, but for we dreamwalkers as well.  We 
set out a series of tasks for the kids that became increasingly more 
challenging both physically and psychologically, and at first these kids 
just didn't seem up to it.  They had never been asked to work before!  
Late on the fourth day the moment of choice arrived:  should they go to 
the effort of climbing to the arch and the scary, unknown experience of 
being alone with themselves, or should they retreat to Moab and party, 
then go home to the comforts of soft beds, hot showers, and shopping 
malls?  The group was paralyzed with conflict.  But there must be 
something compelling about advancing to the next stage of life, because 
that is what they chose.  They faced down their final--and by far the 
most difficult--challenge with all their hearts, and earned the right to 
pass through the gate.

I was awed by the power of the story we had set in motion.  Out in the 
wilderness, there was a lot that was beyond our control, but Nature was 
our ally, sending us capricious winds, mountain lions, eagles, 
thunderstorms, and rainbows at key moments of the quest.  It was as 
though the story of the quest had a life of its own; it seized us and 
began telling itself to its exalting conclusion.

This may have gone a little far off track, but I believe community is 
where the human journey is going to be remembered and restored.  Rites of 
passage are essential nourishment for our souls, and I agree with Mike 
that we should celebrate them.  As for kids and work, learning how to 
handle responsibilities and how to expend effort in order to accomplish a 
worthwhile goal are great ways to prepare for later stages of life.  
Sure, let kids play, but encourage them to contribute, and honor and 
acknowledge them for doing so.

--Denise, Dreamwalker and Communitarian
Geneva Community
Lyons, Colorado

Denise Cote'
Boulder, Colorado
denise [at]

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