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Be nice to the OKs

LETTER FROM LONDON

by Will PrattParents whose rebellious teenage children are haughtily striding their way through the turbulent years of adolescence may have taken a grain of comfort from the news headlined in most British newspapers that Prince Harry, younger son of Prince Charles and third in line to the British throne, was guilty of under-age drinking at a village pub and smoking cannabis at 16.

Since the Prince can go nowhere out of sight of the armed police officers who guard him, newspapers are asking why seemingly none of the escort gave him a friendly talking-to or reported him in confidence to his father. Police sources responded that their duties are Harry’s protection not his upbringing.

There is warm commendation for the way Prince Charles has handled his son’s misdemeanors. He arranged for the lad to visit a rehabilitation home in East London, seeing for himself the effects of drug taking on those undergoing rehabilitation. Seemingly he was shocked. Newspapers sympathetically reminded readers how young the Prince was when the lovely Princess Diana was killed in such dramatic circumstances and how much obviously he still misses his mother.

Of course, the newspapers would have had no interest in this story at all if Harry were an ordinary boy. The hubbub is caused because he’s a prince.

Strangely enough, I am reminded of my own boyhood days as an OK (officer’s kid). When my mom and dad were appointed from corps command to corps command, not only were they objects of scrutiny in their welcome meeting, but so were we four.

Did we play an instrument, sing, timbrel? As the weeks went by the questions changed: were we the little jewels officers’ kids ought to be? We were blessed with parents who loved us but who at times had to ask us not to let the side down. They and we can’t have done too badly. All four of us became officers.

During six privileged years of leadership in Canada, I was immediately sympathetic because of my background to an experienced officer who wanted to tell me of his concern for teenaged officers’ children. They had special problems. Some corps folk would foolishly imagine that because their parents preached holiness from the platform, their kids ought to be little angels. Even such questions as, “Why doesn’t Mrs. C.O. stop her daughter from wearing skirts like that?”

There were questions inside the officers’ quarters, too, from the OKs. “Why is the DC going to farewell us when he knows I face exams next month? Besides, I shall hate having to leave all my friends behind again.”

Because of such questions, we introduced the first territory-wide conference at Jackson’s Point just for teenaged and early 20-year-old officers’ children, Salvationist or non-Salvationist. We helped with their fare. It was staffed by understanding officers with teenaged children of their own.

The blunt questions that arose from that weekend were circulated territory-wide, together with guidance to all officers. From the youngsters themselves we received letters of appreciation indicating they understood a little better now the problems facing administration.

Are we nowadays any more understanding of the OKs? By the way, do pray for Prince Harry, the lad who misses his mother.

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