Monday, June 02, 2008

What Are We Raising for Our Future? A Breed of Inhumane Kids? Three San Pedro Stories Show It's Time for All to Step-Up or Possibly Face the Trouble on Our Own Home Front

By Diana L. Chapman

My friend was telling me this story: His wife was cycling home from her restaurant job a couple of weeks ago in Long Beach, carrying a load of tips when suddenly she scraped her feet against the pedals, fell off course, took a plunge and injured her ankle.

Lying on the ground, her belongings scattered anywhere and everywhere, she saw a young man run toward her; she gratefully looked up at him, relieved he was coming to her aid. Instead, he turned into a vulture.

He stooped over, grabbed up her belongings and fled – all $150 of hard-earned tip money gone, vanished, in less than a few seconds.

Thankfully, others arrived to help, but that one disconcerting moment – one surely she’ll never forget – makes me wonder – so is that a peek into the future? If we don’t get a grip on the piles of kids whose parents are not passing on love, honor, courage, honesty and for God sakes – ethics – then who is going to teach them?

Those numbers are stacking up high all around our community prompting that bleak, murder-romping, gas-guzzling-movie, Road Warrior, to actually look like it may become a true reflection of our future reality. Even recently, when we got our own warning signs from the ominous tire-slasher or slashers, knifing out more than 100 tires in one evening across pockets of San Pedro neighborhoods, it makes you stop and think. Who did this – an angry bunch of kids or young men and women? And if so, who are they mad at? The parent who doesn’t pay attention? The fact that they have no parents? The hostilities they face at school?

Working with kids – when you learn their true stories – often you wonder how they are together at all. Perhaps you want to blame this on immigration or poverty. But what I feel it really stems from – is the family structure no longer meeting children’s needs – and the community at large refusing to step up to the plate when so many children’s homes are shattered – or if they have any home at all.

At one point in my life and for a brief period, we lived in one of the wealthiest towns in the U.S. Actors Paul Newman, Betty Davis and Robert Redford lived there. And this is where I met some of the angriest kids – most vindictive youth – you could ever imagine. They were often so enraged – like hornets – that they would spend wild toad ride afternoons tearing up hundreds of mailboxes and playing chicken.

This often stemmed from the parents, who were never home because they had much better things to do then be with their children, or in the case of my one friend, the oldest of seven, parents who never could show a single drop of emotion – so much so that they would leaving him screaming in his crib night after night.

He hated them; and yet, they were absolutely oblivious to this fact.

When I hear stories like that, I figure how far are we from dangling on the precipice -- about to drop off in a great abyss of wrath. The perpetrators aren’t always who you expect; the crimes entirely senseless and despite the fact these are small crimes, they are like a knifing to the psyche to those who suffer them.

Besides the wild-tire slashings, here are three more San Pedro stories:

--My friends live in typically safe haven of South Shores. They came home the other night – apparently in the middle of a burglary. The suspect fled. My friend discovered all her jewelry was missing – none of which she cared much about – except one irreplaceable item – a necklace her now deceased mother had given her.
According to the couple, the suspect, who eased out readily when they arrived, appeared to know the layout of their house. Because all the dwellings are tract homes, they believe it could have been anyone who works or lives in the neighborhood.

--Our handyman, who for years has gathered up clothes, books and whatever he can for orphans in Mexico and makes many runs down there each year, came home with his family after church three Sunday’s ago -- only to discover his entire house had been stripped of all their belongings.
That included hundreds of dollars worth of notebooks, pens, and pencils he’d collected for the orphans. What makes me sad for this family is how hard they work to send two of their children to college – with a third soon to be on his way -- and the inordinate amount of time the father takes to help others -- such as hiring a nearly deaf employee he learned to communicate with through high-pitched whistles. For the whole family, the event has been unsettling. They are now rebuilding to replace their losses – from scratch.

--About a month ago, a woman complained about a rash of tagging at a Central Neighborhood Council meeting; but the suspects weren’t who you’d expect. They were white men, in their early 20s who tagged -- while their children sat in their SUV BMW’s, watching, the woman said. That came as a surprise to some of us. Even when the kids are educated, we are still discover them destroying public property. For example, a 24-year-old convention planner from Las Vegas plastered his moniker, Buket, all over Los Angeles and on the Hollywood Freeway. This educated man caused $150,000 worth of damages; He was recently arrested.

What can anyone of us – do about all of this? My recommendation: become a mentor, volunteer at a school, become a coach, help out at a non-profit organization, put together a reading program for kids at your neighborhood school, help tutor math, teach students about your profession, do whatever you can to leave a good imprint on a kid – even if that’s doing a pick-up basketball game with the boys and gals next door.

Anything you do for the betterment of a child – no matter how small such as listening to what they have to say – can spread a long ways toward building blocks to help our community. So that maybe, the kid you helped – instead of stealing money from an injured woman – will help her up instead.