• 82°

It will take a village to save Selma

I get a little uncomfortable when people call me an exception.

I still remember manners, pay my taxes and generally try to do what’s best for other people.

I’m not bragging on myself, and I’m certainly not putting down anyone’s compliment.

But I’m a bit disappointed in our society when people look at my face, hear a little bit about my upbringing and say “Good for you” with almost a twinge of empathy.

On first glance, I’m not at all different from the guys I hung out with every day as a teenager who are now dead, dying something almost equally as bad.

Here’s the short version of the story … Hospital nurse mother … Truck driver father … Three kids … Divorced when I was 3 … Not much money, but not in poverty … Shy, overweight and gullible (not great a combination, mind you) … Good student, but unchallenged … Stumbled into college … Carried more attitude than necessary into my first job … Working on doing something with the first university education in my family.

All that didn’t happen because my parents are good people, although they are.

They had help, even when they didn’t think they needed it — even when they didn’t realize they were getting it. Aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, teachers, neighbors all knocked on our door, offered to babysit or told on us when we acted up.

I do have to tell you I was very fortunate for some things. My father has always been an important figure in my life. My mother has deep faith in God and instilled that in all three of her children. We never went hungry, were never homeless and even made the occasional family trip, all because of one word — sacrifice.

There are too many parents, especially young ones, that haven’t yet learned once a baby’s life begins, the adult’s life has to change.

And you better believe if either one of my parents walked through my front door right now and was unhappy with how clean things were, I’d be on my knees within minutes scrubbing something.

I hear all this talk about a lack of things for kids to do in Selma. If they had more activities, if they had more places to go, if we had more resources to provide all that, then our children wouldn’t buy guns, join gangs and they might even graduate high school.

Buildings are nice. New, shiny things are nice, and they have their place. But children haven’t changed. My parents flat out tricked me into believing a ball, back yard and three friends were enough to occupy me for an entire summer. Guess what? It worked.

And then there’s the issue of how to punish kids. I’m not endorsing spanking kids to anyone, but let me tell you about my own personal experience with corporal punishment. When I was 10, I got the whipping of my life for breaking a dish and acting smug about it. When I was 14, I sat around outside with some of my friends comparing stories about the worst whippings we could remember, and we all laughed until we cried.

There are mentoring programs in this city to help troubled kids. We don’t know about them because we’re always busy preparing for the worst.

Somewhere in Dallas County there is a bright, gifted student whose light is shaded by a cramped, moldy classroom.

Neighborhoods that people were once proud of could likely claim the life of a kid who has a real shot at “making it out.”

And why? Because those are someone else’s kids.

The village is only as strong as its weakest family. And looking around at our village, it’s apparent some families could use the same help mine got.