Don’t pass the blame, be the solution

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, July 11, 2013

This past Independence Day, between bites of ribs and baked beans, I was hard at work on a personal project.

A few good folks at my church are launching a summer work program for our young boys. They’ll be able to shadow men on the job, get their hands dirty, and most importantly share in the adults’ wisdom.

Yesterday one of my young mentees said he couldn’t wait to get involved.

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Sometimes all a kid needs is an arm around their shoulder. A pat on the back. An ear to bend and a voice of reason.

My mentee simply wanted an outlet this summer. It’s our obligation to provide that support, especially in times like these.

Just Monday, three people in Chicago’s West Side neighborhood were killed by gunfire. Among those victims was a 15-year-old boy. That just adds to Chicago’s tragic July 4th holiday weekend, in which 72 people suffered gunshot wounds – 12 of whom were killed.

My colleague Joey Kennedy recently called it a “culture of violence.” But I believe that culture was birthed by a much more silent offender – a culture of absence.

Our family structure has evolved. Kids are coming home to empty houses, forcing them to become adults years before they’re ready. This isn’t always the the result of apathy from parents, often it’s from necessity. I talk to parents and I know their struggles – working two shifts to keep bills paid doesn’t leave room for quality time.

We have to do better. The first step? Reclaim our kids.

We can’t let the bloody headlines of the past few weeks be washed away by the next news cycle. And we certainly can’t afford to shrug our shoulders and pass the blame of our ailing youngsters onto something or someone else.

They’re our kids. We have to protect them. That’s what adults do.

Edward T. Bowser is a community engagement specialist for and The Birmingham News. Reach him on Twitter @etbowser, visit his Facebook page or email