Sixty Six Percent

We have failed our kids on a level that is unforgivable. All of us. We are a country that tells children that they can be whatever it is that they desire in their life. We tell them that they are our most valuable resource. That they are (cue music) the future. But we don't follow through. The words become empty because we don’t do all that we can to ensure that every child is safe. Every child, not just the ones born to us. 

We fail to take seriously the things that keep children out of trouble. Connection. Purpose. Outlets. People who give a shit. It seems to take a huge case like Jerry Sandusky or a school shooting to get people to feel outraged about the abuse suffered by kids in this country. Or something like watching and trying not to vomit when we see those kids on the bus breaking an elderly woman with viscious words. We say things like, "Those little monsters! How do they have no empathy for this woman?" and maybe some of us are moved to talk to our kids about bullying.  But there is so much more to this than what we are seeing on the news and as soon as the headline is gone, we go back to hiding our eyes or rationalizing doing nothing. And the reason is that we are afraid. But of what? Probably a lot of different things.

When crisis strikes, our instinct as parents is to grab our kids up and hug them. Hold them tighter. Keep them closer. But what about our responsibility to other people's kids? What about the kid that we forbid our kids to play with. The bad influence. Why are we not hugging that kid? Instead of banishing them from connection with our kids, why not invite them to dinner? Why not extend to them the one thing that we know can change the course of a child's life? Knowing that they are worth something. Knowing that someone cares about how you turn out? An anchor. By modeling this through action, we are also teaching our own kids to practice it. I know that I am not answering all questions or coming up with a solution to the epidemic of violence in this country with a blog post. I'm also not saying that a family dinner invitation will solve the problem of school shootings or child abuse. These are just the questions that I am trying to answer for myself. You may not agree with me. But I believe that if we could all step outside of our comfort zone (our own families) and extend ourselves to giving a shit about other people's kids, we then have the power to turn this around. One kid at a time. But we don't do it. We have become so focused on our own that we close ourselves off and watch as things happen to others. All the while thinking, "Not my child. Not my child". We have turned inward. Our sense of community, all but gone.

When I worked with the children at the domestic violence shelter, I was often asked how I could do it. How in the world I went to work every day knowing that kids who grow up in violent homes often become violent or victims of violence. To that I always said, because it takes one person to change the course of a child's life. One person. One activity. One anchor. But that person has to believe. Because these kids can smell a rat. These kids know if you think they are full of shit or that they are hopeless. So you better not think it, even for a second.

 

How do we believe it? By looking at the reality that SIXTY SIX percent of kids who grow up in violent homes go on to change their lives (this is true for children of addicts and children of smokers too). We just don't hear about them because they aren't committing crimes. What's the big difference between the 66% that turn out ok and the 33% that don't? The 66% had something that the others did not. Yep! You guessed it. An outlet.  A person.  A connection that was someone or something other than their own parents. Another adult that took an interest in them. A sport that made them feel talented. A hobby that they shared with a good friend. A reason for feeling good about themselves. A root to plant them here and believe that they had purpose. It's not rocket science. People who believe in themselves and are given the tools to express their anger and despair, do not kill people. We know the risk behaviors and precursors for violence. We know them. So why in the hell aren't we focusing on these kids? And I’m not talking politically. I ten thousand percent believe in programs for at risk youth but I’m talking about citizens. You and me. Not the Government.

We are ass backwards in this country. We fix things later. We wait for a problem. We build more jails and we find more things to outlaw. And maybe I'm talking like a crazy person here, but I just don't understand why we still are not stopping the problem when we actually can (with a young child) and instead finding new ways to contain the problem once they are too far gone as adults. It's mind blowing really.

So I guess my point is this, have you hugged someone else's kid today? Because my understanding is that the vast majority of us are good people with good intentions. We get a bad rap from the ones that are not. We have become afraid to reach out. Afraid that others will question our reasons. Or reject our offers of kindness. Or think we are weird. And to that I say, get over it. Do it anyway. Because we live in a violent world and no amount of closing our doors and shutting our blinds has changed that. When we turn away from others in pain, we leave it fester. We become a part of its growth. We don't have to do that. We can be stronger than that. Martin Luther King Jr. said (and I paraphrase), the only thing that has ever conquered hatred, is love. It sounds like hippie dippy liberal peace and flower talk, I know. But you know what? It's the truth. And loving and connecting with your neighbor's and their kids may not prevent a school shooting or cure the violent crime epidemic, but it just might change that one child. If all of us just helped one child that was not our own. Just one.  You could show her that she doesn't need to have a baby at sixteen to feel loved. Or help him know that he is smart enough and brave enough to go away to college. By standing up for a child you are teaching them that they deserve fairness and kindness and they may learn to then stand up for someone else. And on and on and on.

Don’t be afraid. Take the step. You can be a part of this. And by doing that you are changing the world. One kid at a time. You really are.

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