If you saw your neighbor's 14 year old son smoking pot or taking drugs, would you tell his parents? What about if you noticed that the girl next door came home with a boy while her parents thought she was supposed to be in school? And if you noticed that an older man was hitting on your friend's minor daughter, would you say something? Years ago, this would not even require a thought process. You would tell the parents. But today, this situation changes a bit. It's a little more complicated. Society has changed from back in the days when the community felt it was everyone's responsibility to watch out for the neighborhood kids. Today, there is a very fine line between concern and gossip.
A few years ago, I was faced with this same dilemma. I had met this family in my kid's sports team. They didn't have much resources so I helped them where I could by helping to provide the girls with transportation. In this effort to help, I became very attached to the girls and thought of them as one of my own. It came to a point that if I bought sports gear for my children, I would buy the girls the same exact thing. As time progressed I noticed that the younger of the girls was becoming very attached to the coach. So much so that the girl did not want to practice unless the coach was present. One day I decided to mention the girl's attitude to the mom. I was truly concerned that the girl could have a crush on an older, married man and I didn't want anything to happen between them. I was genuinely concerned for the girl's well-being. So, I suggested to the mom that she go to the practices with us. I wouldn't mind her coming along with us. She listened and thanked me and said that she'd look into it. When I went to pick up the girls for the next practice, they were not home. So, I went on to the practice without them. I was so surprised when I found all the parents meeting to discuss with the coach that I had spread rumors about one of the girls on the team. I was in total shock. This was certainly not what I was expecting. Little did I know, the mom had called practically everyone telling them that I had said that her daughter was in love with the coach and that I was spreading this gossip. I had only mentioned my concern to the girls' mother. I never spoke to another soul about it. So you can imagine how surprised I was to hear that I had been spreading gossip about the girl. From that moment forward, I vowed never to get involved again. I changed my kids to another team and tried to forget the entire incident.
When did society change and where the heck have I been that I hadn't noticed? I know that if someone came to me with a similar concern about one of my kids, I would certainly listen and investigate for myself. And I would be deeply grateful for someone having the courage to tell me about a true concern. Obviously, we can't go around believing everything everyone says, but as adults, we know who is legitimately concerned about our family's well-being. I know another case in which someone told a parent that his son was smoking marihuana. The parent went to the son, told the son that such-and-such a person had said that they were seen smoking pot. The boy later took reprieve upon the person who was just trying to save the boy from being another drug addict.
As society, we complain constantly about the number of young people falling into drugs, or the increase in teenage pregnancy, or the number of people living off of social welfare. We blame the government for not developing programs for prevention. We blame the cops for not picking up the drug dealers. We blame the teenagers who fall victims to peer? pressure…yet we never blame ourselves. We never blame ourselves for allowing the rules of society to change for the worst. If we are to stop this downhill swirl of drugs, violence, teenage pregnancy and suicide, we need to be a more proactive society. We need to take responsibility for our community. We need to take responsibility as parents to watch our children, to trust our neighbor, to care about our neighbor's child as much as our own. I don't know if we can turn back the hands of time, but we have to take a stand if we are to leave our children a world where loving your neighbor as yourself is not just a dream; but rather a reality.
Written by Carmen D Rivera-Gomez on Sunday, July 10, 2011 2:19 PM
Isabela, Puerto Rico
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