The incredibly sad violence in Connecticut has cast a heavy shadow over everyone’s season of joy and happiness, and created a lifelong heartache for those who loved the children and adults no longer with us.
Many questions are tossed around the news and the Internet: What was the motive? When is Congress going to act? What is the president going to do?
Since Columbine, there have been 40 school shootings, and these questions are not new. I think a better question for everyone to ask is, What more can we do to make sure no child in our community grows up to commit a similar act toward even one other person?
Whether the cause is isolation, alienation, anger, lack of parental guidance, depression, drugs, mental illness or a combination of these, there is more we can do and much of it is pretty easy.
Often a youth needs only a person who cares enough to listen to them, validate concerns and feelings, and occasionally suggest options. We can all make an effort to form bonds and positive relationships with the young people around us.
The young man at the Oregon mall did not know his father, his mother died in childbirth, at 14 he left his aunt’s home where he grew up, and according to one friend he raised himself from then on.
His and other lives might have been different if neighbors or other adults had taken an interest. If mental illness turns out to have been a factor, signs of it could have been noticed earlier with more adults paying attention.
We can offer concrete support to parents who did not have good role models in their own lives, or those who are working multiple jobs to have enough money to buy food and no time or energy for their children. Real support means offering to keep an eye on the kids since you’re home in the afternoon, providing rides, buying a little more food than you need and sharing it, making it known that you’re available when needed.
Donate your time and/or money to our local organizations that address healthy families and child development, substance abuse, mental illness, or children at risk.
Our local Family Resource Centers have behavioral therapists on site for early detection and help for problems, and regularly hold parenting classes. They also provide clothing, food, career support and other services to help families in need. The FRC’s are nearing the end of grant funding that established them and will need help for long-term sustainability.
There are many others, such as the schools, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Child Advocates, The Friendship Club — or you can find one that suits your interests by contacting the Community Support Network of Nevada County (csnnc.org) or calling 2-1-1.
Write to your state and federal representatives urging them to increase funding for schools, childcare and other family support programs, substance abuse and mental health services and to make cuts elsewhere.
For another illustration of the connection between violence and youth development, listen to the TED talk by David R. Dow at: www.ted.com/talks/david_r_dow_lessons_from_death_row_inmates.html. Mr. Dow suggests new government support programs, which are needed, but without personal involvement of many more people in every community, the programs will fall short. Our kids need you.
Ned Russell lives in Grass Valley.
Often a youth needs only a person who cares enough to listen to them, validate concerns and feelings, and occasionally suggest options.