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Street Smart

Having a positive impact


November 7, 2019

Last week was Red Ribbon Week at our schools. For those that don’t know about it; Red Ribbon Week is a national drug awareness program aimed at educating students about the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The program began in Southern California after the 1985 torture and murder of DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The program has been taught in our nation’s schools since 1987.

I was at the high school last Thursday to help with the Elks Lodge’s Drug Awareness trailer. Officer Bob Thornhill from the Thompson Falls Police Department (the school resource officer) put together a pretty innovative set of obstacles for the students to navigate while wearing goggles that simulated being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You can read about the event in this edition of the paper, so I won’t belabor the topic. What I want to discuss is my personal “take away” as an observer.

As I watched, it occurred to me that this program has been in our schools nationwide for the past 32 years. It’s safe then to say that most people with a current history of abusing drugs and/or alcohol and tobacco were taught by the schools the dangers of each. It made me think, where are we failing? We (collectively as a nation) know the dangers, so why can’t we stop it? I looked around at the students going through the various drills and couldn’t help wondering, which of them (how many?) we weren’t going to reach. I know that’s sort of a morbid thought, but I couldn’t help it. Watching the students made me wish I had that sort of ‘future sight’ information beforehand so I could figure out a way to intervene. Clearly that’s not possible in real life, but it did cross my mind.

The schools do what they can, but that’s clearly not enough. I think prevention starts in the home by the example set by parents and the foundation is then built upon from there. As I thought about all of this, it also occurred to me that I can look back on my personal story and describe exactly where I dropped the ball in terms of “good parenting.” I fell into what I think is a common trap. For many more years than I care to admit, I was more focused on my professional work life than I was on my family. I put way more time and effort into my career than I did at home. I don’t want to get too personal because I haven’t sought permission from those who were impacted by my behavior. The good news though, is that everything has leveled out and things are going well. However, the point is, some tough times might have been avoided all together if I’d been a better parent and listened to advice I’d been given. That’s a hard admission, but it’s also the truth. There were other factors involved, but the bottom line is that I was very selfish as a young man and didn’t fight hard enough. Others paid.

I want to make it very clear that I wouldn’t think of offering parenting advice to anyone! I’m not qualified. I’ve made far too many mistakes of my own in that arena. I think it’s an unfortunate quirk of human nature that, by the time we’re old enough to realize we should have listened to advice from those who are older and wiser, we’re damn near old and wise enough to start offering advice! I wish I’d have listened to others when I was younger. I saw one of those “memes” on the Internet the other day. It had a picture of a stereotypical wise man and said; “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from poor judgment.” That registered with me! If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a wise old sage… listen to that person.

We have a drug crisis in our nation, and we can all do more in terms of prevention and intervention. I think we all have what has been called a ‘sphere of influence’ (people in our lives impacted by our presence). With that in mind, I’d ask each reader to think about your own personal life. How do you impact those around you? How do they view your behavior? Are you proud of the example you set, or could you do better? Also, can you think of someone (in this instance, a young person) who you somehow connect with? Maybe a young person you can talk with about anything, but who will absolutely ignore his/her parents? Now consider the opportunity you have to make a positive impact in that person’s life.

Several years ago, I read the following quote by Christian author C.S. Lewis, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” That quote gave me hope when considering my own mistakes and I thought of it again as I watched the students during Red Ribbon Week. Each of us can make a difference and have a positive impact if we just look for the opportunities and respond.

Blaine Blackstone is a retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant who enjoys the simpler life in Thompson Falls. He can be reached by email at [email protected]


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