Monday, December 17, 2012

Eyes Wide Open


My small rural town in the 1950s was a close community where it was understood that each life impacted the entire town.  If there was an illness or injury, no one needed to ask for help.  Assistance flowed into that family’s home.

There was an understood, unspoken responsibility each person maintained for the people of the town.  If one had an alcohol addiction or was mentally unstable, everyone knew about it.  Everyone cared about what happened.  And, each family actively supervised their problem.  What this one person did affected every other person.

Many many years after I had grown and left this town, things changed.  A generation died off; my generation relocated where there were jobs.  The dynamics shifted and new unknown people moved into the emptied houses.  This was a different town.

There was a boy who was odd—that’s what my mother called him. When he was in school, no programs or aid had existed for this boy who was essentially barely able to button his shirt, let alone talk or read.  When he was about ten, his parents kept him home and attended to his needs.

One day, this mentally disturbed and developmentally delayed boy (now grown to a man) went to the grade school.  Thirty years had passed since he had been there, but this man still possessed great anger about those years in the back of a classroom where he was teased and belittled.  Angry about the teacher who had been ‘unkind’, he took a double-barreled shotgun with him.

There was a confrontation, but everyone knew him and was able to prevent what could have been horrific.  The teacher retired shortly after.

If this happened in my small hometown in the 1980s, why is it any surprise that crazy events happen now…most people live in one town and work in another…neighbors come and go…most towns have been merged with other towns into one big city glop…

Be watchful and speak up.  See someone behaving strangely?  Call the police.  Don’t ignore the obvious signs of danger.  Pay attention.  Keep yourself and others safe.  The responsibility is ours.


  1. Abosolutely true. We can't just gloss over things like that. There's no way of telling how much damage not doing something could do.

  2. And especially....try to be kind to the odd, the lonely, the different....and give them some good memories. Teach your children to appreciate differences. Our actions toward others may have an impact in years to come.

    1. And a fist-pumping dance of agreement from here. People with mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrator. This is something else that needs to change. Kindness and gentleness and treating others with respect are sadly undervalued these days I believe.
      Wonderful post - and thank you.

  3. Very true, with internet and such we just hear about it way more now. Plus it was a different time and people weren't afriad to help out back then.

  4. I was bullied in grade school, for being taller than everyone else. Fortunately, I had good friends then and always. But I still feel the pain when I think about it. I agree with mybabyjohn/Delores's comment above, we have to teach our children to be kinder to those who are different. And I agree with you that we need, if we can discern that there truly is a problem, to notify someone. I don't know who that would be. I'm sure it is not the job of the police to look into all the weird looking people, particularly if you live in a larger place. But someone should know, something should be done to help.

  5. We must also make sure that parents, the community in general, show kindness, love and concern for those who need help. To ignore, to pretend something isn't happening, can lead to the awful atrocities that we have seen with horror.

    Our children need to feel love. In turn our children will learn such values and make their world a better place.

    And those who need mental health care, must have the right to treatment. As in Britain, by no means a perfect system, we have universal mental health care via the NHS.

    A thoughtful, provocative posting, Susan.

    In kindness, through the observation of Penny the Jack Russell.

  6. Every little bit of good we do helps. I wonder if the world is too large for all the little bits to help much.

  7. How scary. Yes, being observant is key. My Husband overheard a lady talking and stating " Oh that could never happen here...they have to buzz people into the school." My Husband simply said... That school looks just like the schools here. Unfortunately this could happen anywhere."
    We all have to be observant and be involved in our community. we have to care and put in place active and successful preventitives measures for bullying, gangs, drugs, these are all a huge problem. Thank you Susan.
    Blessings, Joanne


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