In response to Jeff Mitchell’s letter to the editor a couple of weeks ago, I commend his alerting the public to public safety problems and asking for help in formulating a response/solution. And, although I have no problem with the proposals he makes for strategy and communication, I do take issue that his is not much more than another “Band-Aid” solution and will do little more than reroute the behavior and incidents we all find troubling to new locations.
We live in a culture where many of us and our children think and act as if it’s OK to do practically anything – if we don’t get caught. So, having more eyes and ears available is a first-step measure. But leaving that surveillance and intervention up to law enforcement will never work. We, as adults, must find the courage to intervene. We must “stand up, not just stand by” and wait for law enforcement to make our neighborhoods and public places safe again.
It may be foolish to do this alone, but several adults can usually adequately intervene and say something when we witness these acts. It is good role modeling for our children so that when they are at school, for instance, and witness a teasing or bullying incident, they can say something either to the perpetrator or the target or to an adult. When we don’t do anything, we become part of the problem.
So I commend Jeff Mitchell for doing something and rousting us to do something.
But back to the Band-Aid nature of the fixes, we will not solve this problem until we embrace the notion that all kids are our kids. Just because they aren’t ours biologically, they are ours and they are our future.
The “problem” is us and our lack of courage to step up and say things; to mentor them; to develop relationships of influence with them; to believe in them; to help them rekindle their dreams; to tell them their behavior is scaring us and our children; to help fund places where they can congregate and be safe; to help them take “safe” risks; to be their big brother or big sister; to be interested in their ideas and set limits for their behaviors in our presence; to see the person inside the costume or behind the attitude; to invite them onto our task forces and ask for their solutions to the very problems of which they seem to be a part. We also need to teach them and practice restorative justice and restitution; to model and teach and expect them to have integrity – to do what’s right, even if no one is watching.
We can always say we don’t have enough time, money or wherewithal, but the fact is, as Mr. Mitchell so aptly pointed out, this issue has become our business and we can’t afford not to do something.
I have worked in the field of violence prevention for more than 20 years. Research shows that all kids need at least three adults in their lives other than their parents to be successful. I’d venture to say that the youth Mr. Mitchell has identified do not have those adults.
If your child does not excel in sports or academics or is not “popular,” where will they find a place to shine at school and in the community? Where will they find a place to congregate and a place to belong? Where will they find the courage to do what’s right, not what’s popular? Where will they find the support to make a difference in the world? Where will they find their three adults?
They could find them right here from all of us who live here and want this to stay a beautiful, safe place to live and grow. We should be talking to each other, but perhaps even more importantly, we should be talking to and getting to know this next generation – they are important resources to our community; they are part of our human family; they are not only our future, they are our present and they are all of ours.