As a community we should make
resolutions to do better in the coming year.
In 2002, Logan County was rocked by the
deaths of so many of our youth that we were moved to prayer. Being
humbled, on our knees, is a good place to start.
Much can be accomplished by praying;
still more can be added by planning and action.
In talking and listening to the leaders
of our community, I have compiled the following list of action steps
that we might take together. Consider making them part of your
personal or professional resolutions:
--Make this the year that you talk to
your sons or daughters about alcohol, drug and tobacco use. It is
never too late to start doing the right thing. Your words of care
and concern might be the only thing between them and their death.
--Make this the year that you quit your
own drug use, your own tobacco smoking, or moderate your own alcohol
intake that you might be a positive example to your children and
--Make this the year that you spend a
more time watching over your children, monitoring their friendships,
the places they hang out and the habits they are forming. Teenagers
are still children who need our care, counsel and concern. While
they remain in our custody we must be the parents and act
responsibly for their benefit. Too much misplaced trust or too
little parenting may result in their injury or death.
--Make this the year that you become
more involved with the people who spend time with your children.
Their coaches, their teachers and all the other people who are
helping to shape your child's life need your involvement and your
input. Your involvement in these activities communicates to your
children and these youth leaders that you care.
--Make this the year that you out-think
their death or injury. Think about how to wisely restrict their
activities to keep them safe, but not encourage rebellion. Be aware
of the ploys your children use to try to outwit you. Become
conscious of the ways they try to manipulate you, their attempts to
bend the truth, and the things and thoughts they are hiding from
you. Hold them accountable for their promises and their actions.
--Make this the year that you take some
time to become acquainted with your neighbors and meet their
children. It takes an entire community to raise a child, and our
responsibility as neighbors extends beyond our own property lines.
Ask the parents if it is permissible to report to them if you see
their children involved in activities that you think are dangerous
or damaging. If they accept your offer, take the initiative to help
keep an eye on the youth of your neighborhood. Have the courage to
call parents when wrong or dangerous activities are witnessed or
--Make this the year that we set forth
good examples of citizenship to the youth of our community. Being
good citizens means acting responsibly regardless of the situation.
Being a good citizen and a good neighbor means reaching out to the
poor, providing for the sick and homebound, smiling and putting on
the best face when times are tough, and setting a good example and a
good attitude. The children of today are fast becoming the citizens
of tomorrow, and they are watching your every move and listening to
your every word.
--Make this the year that you consider
forming a neighborhood watch program in your area. Safeguarding your
neighborhood is your responsibility too. Call your local police for
guidelines and suggestions.
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--Make this the year when profits are
not quite as important as caring for our citizens and their
children. Consider voluntarily restricting the sale to youth of
over-the-counter drugs or "herbs" that might be dangerous to their
--Make this the year that no alcohol or
tobacco is sold to minors. Card everyone. Report minors who are
attempting to purchase alcohol or tobacco to the police.
--Make this the year that you just say
no when you suspect that the alcohol that is being sold to an adult
at the counter is going to be handed over to minors outside the
store. Post a sign that says your business may refuse to sell or
serve anyone for any reason. And then encourage your workers and
employees to exercise good judgment. Dead children make poor future
--Make this the year that you as a
teacher, administrator, coach or school counselor reaffirm your
professional oath and your professional responsibility for the youth
of our community. Your mentoring, interdiction and involvement may
be the only thing between the life and death of our children.
--Make this the year that we place more
emphasis on personal integrity and morality than we do on bending
the rules to have the winning team. Hold our students to their vows
of abstinence from alcohol, drugs and tobacco by promising to follow
through with the restrictions and punishments, and then do exactly
what you said you would do when violations happen. Do not make any
exceptions for talent, money, position or influence.
--Make this the year that we clean up
Logan County. Pull the liquor licenses of businesses that sell
alcohol to minors, and never give them back! Put known drug dealers
out business and behind bars. Put methamphetamine producers in jail
and meth production out of business. Complete the plans to have
businesses licensed to sell tobacco products, and strictly enforce
their sales. Hold adults and parents accountable to the law for
giving minors alcohol, tobacco or drugs.
--Make this the year that we enforce
the letter of the law. Make no extra considerations for the children
of influence or money, our star athletes or popular children. Turn
no blind eye to the actions of any individual or group.
This list is merely a first step. There
are many other youth problems to tackle in Logan County. If we
accept the responsibility and make this list our resolution for the
year, lives may be saved.
Some may read this commentary and these
lists and be offended, thinking that I am leveling charges or
criticisms against specific individuals or agencies. Some may
believe that I am advocating the restriction of freedoms or
hampering our civil rights. My goal is not to criticize, nor hamper
rights or freedoms, and my targets are not people but rather the
principles by which we shall have life. This is about the care and
safeguarding of our youth. The deaths of our children are an
indictment on us all.
This year, let us be the benefactors of
our own children and the children of Logan County. May we together
restrict death's hand, be once again moved to pray on their behalf
and be called to real action. This responsibility and accountability
belongs to us all. We are our brother's keeper!
us all in the new year.
The children sat by classes on the warm
floor that smelled of old wood and wax. One class at a time, they
rose for their performance, and then, relieved of any performance
anxieties, they sat back down, relaxing until everyone had had their
Then the tall, broad-shouldered,
ex-military man we knew as our kindly principal, Mr. Greathouse,
took center stage and began the traditional rolling of the brittle 8
mm film "The Littlest Angel." He stayed near the machine as the
large screen (used just this one time each year) flashed with the
jumpy, animated cartoon.
The story, if you don't know it, is
about a little angel with no money to buy a gift for a special baby.
The loud, rich-toned sound track slurred and garbled as the children
sat watching, the younger ones rapt in attention.
Suddenly there would be a snap, slap,
slap, slap as the film broke. Guaranteed, it broke no less than
twice each year. But the children always sat quietly waiting,
sharing friendly smiles and continuing to relax as the large, gentle
man quickly taped and reworked the film to get it going again (and
When it was over, it was almost without
words that the mesmerized children and teachers filed back to their
rooms, the children nearly falling into their seats like perfect
Every year was the same. At that
moment, in every classroom, as though they all read from the same
script, each teacher with her warmest smile and tone of voice,
wished her students a "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holiday."
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Then followed the traditional closing
activity. It wouldn't have been the same without it -- the handing
out of the Christmas bags that had magically appeared in each
classroom while the students were out in assembly. Oh, those sweet
little brown paper bags, each filled with an apple, an orange,
Christmas hard candies, chocolates and a candy cane -- tokens that
told each child they were valued.
With good wishes to each and every
student, and the clever line, "I'll see you all next year," every
teacher would dismiss her class for the holidays.
For the students, and I suppose the
teachers too, this was without a doubt the easiest, most relaxed,
warmest-of-the-heart school day of the year. It was a moment in time
filled with sights, sounds, smells, warm voices and smiles, memories
that would last a lifetime.
Most schools will break for the
holidays today, Friday, Dec. 20. I hope that children today
experience some of the magic the teachers and principal sought to
provide to students at Greeley Elementary, built in 1904, in
acquired a video copy of the 1940s movie "The Littlest Angel." I
will watch it at 2 p.m., in honor of my favorite principal, Mr.
Leonard E. Greathouse. While the film probably won't break, my heart
will ache with fond memory.