I was looking forward to a breakfast conversation with Stephen, Rob and Dean this morning, but my plans changed rather quickly. At about 2am this morning, I got a phonecall that my wife’s brother had been jumped by several youths and stabbed multiple times. Luckily, he made it through his surgery, and he’s doing OK … but not after some very scary moments.
I often think of the great positives but forth by the wisdom of crowds mentality, by the same social premise that gives us open source software, social software and artefacts/services like Wikipedia. Sure, in my online world, I worry about innappropriate content, the commodization of knowledge, cyberbullying, the domination of proprietary mediums, etc. … really big and important issues. And, by routine, I am guilty of placing more emphasis on developing, improving and sustaining my online environment than I do on my temporal world.
Last night’s wakeup call was literally that … a wakeup call to pay more attention to my local community. Before working at the University of Regina, I was employed as a social worker in a youth detention facility. The work was very difficult as I came to know many young individuals who had fallen into a lifestyle of crime, in many cases by circumstance and little fault of their own. The work was literally heart-breaking at times.
I remember the time when I transported a boy named Marcel to a northern Saskatchewan community, to attend the funeral of his Grandfather. Marcel was a week shy of his 18th birthday, and he had been institutionalized, due to mostly petty crimes, since he was 14 years old. His father was a “lifer” at a federal penitentiary. When we got to the funeral, I uncuffed Marcel out of respect, although as far as I knew, I was breaking the rules. I remember him then telling me, “Don’t worry, I won’t run on you. I know you’re not permanent (I was casual at the time), so you might lose your job. But I will run next week. I have to run, or I won’t have anywhere to go (for the winter), and it’s getting too cold.” And even though I reported this to the other staff, Marcel did run. And several months after that (once he turned 18), Marcel committed a much more serious crime, and I remember the reports stating his rationale. Supposedly, he did it so that he could finally be with his dad. Absolutely heart-breaking stuff.
In Saskatchewan, violent crime is continuing to be a serious issue. Although there are policing initiatives like the Safe Communities program, it’s simply not enough. Gang violence affects us all, and it’s no longer something that occurs in low-income neighborhoods. It’s no longer something that we can pretend doesn’t exist. Think to yourself, “what can I do to help?” Then, act!
Update: Thanks to Jim for alerting me to a related story posted by Chris Lehman. He points to the story of Terrell Pough, an 18 year highschool senior and father of a two-year old daughter, who was killed through senseless violence last Thursday. A notable quote from Lehman’s post reads:
And I worry. I worry that we are losing a generation of young men in our cities. I worry that so many of them want the best for themselves but don’t see a path ahead of them to achieve that. I worry that we lose kids like Terrell to the violence around them. I worry that we have a generation of young men and women who see the violence around them as a too real part of their every day lives.
And I think of the enormous task we have in front of us, as educators… as a whole society… to repair the damage that has already been done.
And if the words on the page are not enough to remind us of what we are losing, here is a picture of Terrell and Diamond at a Sixers game a few weeks ago.