Thursday, July 06, 2006

Help others, help the world

He helps others most, who shows them how to help themselves.
- A.P. Gouthey

This is a variation on the saying about giving a hand up as opposed to a handout.

A handout is a temporary resolution to an immediate need. We give food to people who are starving, medicine to those who would otherwise die, shelter to those who have been made homeless.

None of these solutions solve a problem. They only put a patch on what is almost certainly a more urgent need.

Starving people need the skills and the resources to grow their own food if securing it from other sources on an ongoing basis is impossible. Those who are ill often need to be taught how to live healthier lives, to protect themselves from disease and dysfunctions due to unbalanced nutritional intake. Homeless people need to learn how to build themselves a home, in addition to getting the materials and tools.

The other kind of homeless people, the kind who choose to live in shelters or without any protection at all, need more than that. They need other people, first and foremost, to understand that they chose "the bottom of the barrel" because it was the only way they could be certain that they could not fall any further, that they could not lose any more, that life could not get any worse. They need that as a reference point.

These people need more than a home, they need to build a life. In most cases, their childhood provided them with some of the conventional "things" but not nearly enough of the skills they need in terms of social or emotional development.

They were not prepared to be self-sustaining, self-sufficient, self-confident adults, much less parents. This is not their fault. They should not be penalized as adults for what they did not receive as children and adolescents.

It's not part of the job description of a child to tell his parents what he needs. Mostly because he doesn't know what he needs, even when he suffers badly from unfulfilled needs. Have you ever known a child to say "Mommy, I need a hug, I need to be held" If you have, then you have known a rare child.

It's the job of parents to know what their children need and to provide it at the right times. But how do parents know what those needs are and when the right times would be? They don't. That deficit accounts for almost all of the social (community) problems and most of the personal problems (and broken people) with which we are all too familiar.

As communities, we have the skills to fix people who are broken for one reason or another. Those would be adults, not children. Almost no one knows how to fix a child who is socially or emotionally broken. Fortunately, most children don't break in that sense during their childhood.

How can we teach parents what they need to know to raise their children properly, safely, in a healthy and supportive manner? Draw a line directly from Dot 1 to Dot 2.

If the skills and knowledge are in the wrong hands, change the system ever so slightly so that the people who need the skills and knowledge learn them from the people who have them. This would cost almost nothing, considering that we have the education system and the experts in place already.

It would require a change of attitude of politicians, who would then direct their education leaders to alter curriculum to implement the needed changes.

Politicians change their attitude quickly, if they have enough voters who wnat them to change it.

So? We have the skills, the people and the plan.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to connect the dots and provide the plan to accomplish it.
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