All of the upsetting and tragic events of the summer of 2016 (police shooting citizens, citizens shooting police, terrorist attacks in our country and in other counties) have left me feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and grateful that I no longer have children at home to whom I must try to explain incidents that I don’t understand myself. This all brings back memories for me of when I was still a student in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Lots of troubling events occurred then, also – college students gunned down at Kent State, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, a Buddhist monk setting himself on fire in Vietnam, the many slayings of civil rights advocates in the South. Somehow the summer of 2016 feels different to me. During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I was first a child and then a teen. The world was not yet mine. Growing up in a rural community in PA, I watched events on TV or read about them in newspapers and magazines while I remained safe and somewhat insulated in my living room. I did not comprehend at the time that my generation would eventually inherit the chaotic world I was witnessing.
Now I am the adult. Regardless of the fact that I vote in every election, write and call my elected officials on topics that concern me, post articles on my Facebook page, and deal with social issues in my everyday work, I have not been able to change the world. Injustice and cruelty still abound. We don’t have sufficient gun control laws in the U.S., we never passed the ERA, and racial and cultural bigotry and hatred exist throughout the world. I am handing off to my grown daughter a world that seems worse than the one I entered as a young adult.
What does all of this have to do with my work in prevention at Youth Development? On a daily
basis I talk with educators about the Dignity for All Students Act and how it applies to them and their students. I offer information on the current heroin/opioid crisis and what we should be doing to keep schools and communities safe. I provide support to our prevention counselors who are in the trenches working with students who face family issues, mental health diagnoses, learning disabilities, poverty, and a myriad of other difficulties.
Often I cannot see the results of the good I do. After all, I work primarily in PREVENTION. If I succeed in my work, something will NOT occur, so where is the proof that I did anything? I guess I will have to settle for the little things I CAN see:
- Raising my daughter to be a decent human being who adopted a rescue cat and donates a portion of her relatively meager salary to the Human Rights Campaign.
- Making sure we in Youth Development include professional development on topics such as cultural competency, working with transgender students, facts about addiction.
- Treat others in my personal and professional life with respect and dignity regardless of how they treat me
In other words, I guess the best I can do in response to the disarray in the world is to continue to chart a steady course through the turbulence. As Paul Shane Spear said, “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.”