Do I sign up for the 5K walk?  Do I join in with the group and pick on the special needs kid?  Do I get in the car with my friend who has been drinking?  Do I buy that lottery ticket?  Do I pack my things and leave my life behind?  Do I ask for help?  Do I take this last pill/drink?  Do I go to the doctor and get this pain/lump checked out?  Do I let my loved one leave me behind on Earth?  Do I pick up this gun?  Do I allow the threat of being called a name dictate my actions?  Do I skip school?  Do I ditch work?  Do I take this money to pay a bill or blow it on a fun night out?  Do I order the double cheeseburger or the salad?  Do I get up and walk or go back to bed?  Do I bet it all on red or black?  Do I go to bed or slip out of the window and hang out with my friends?…..

One small decision made in a split second can change your life FOREVER!

The rise in criminal street gang activities and murders, in general, is a crisis that demands the attention of every one of us.  For the large majority, kids turn to gangs to feel needed, to belong, to be included in something, and to be important to someone or something larger than themselves.  These kids tend to have single parent homes where there is not a responsible and loving adult that is an active participant in the child’s life.  Most of these kids spend a large amount of time by themselves at home or in the community with little to no supervision.  They do not feel like they belong anywhere and they do not feel important to anyone or anything.  Their parents will generally tell you that they “never saw this coming” and “had no idea that my kid was in a gang.”  Most of those parents are telling the truth… they “never saw” and “had no idea” because they were too busy with their own lives to talk to their children and be active participants in the child’s life, as well.  Additionally, these kids do not value life much at all.  They have never done a day of charity work or learned the power of helping another person.

This trend has to stop.  We as responsible adults need to make a valuable change in the lives of the children in our families and in our communities.  In addition, we have to teach the children to value, highly, the lives of each and every person.  We need to instill in the child an instinct to help instead of hurt.  If you know of a child whose parent is not able to spend large amounts of time with the child, invite that child to spend time with you and your family.  Show the child the importance of helping others and being respectful of others and their property.  Show the child the value of a random act of kindness.

Hillary Clinton was right…it truly does take a village to raise a child.  Japan is among several other countries with very low crime rates.  This is mainly due to the societal influence in a person’s life.  Society in Japan expects that each individual will positively contribute to their family and community.  If they do not, they are shunned.  Additionally, the community assists with the child rearing.  The child’s future is not simply left in the hands of the mother or father, as is so often the case in the United States.

Once the child feels that they are an important part of their family, community, and society in general, their decision-making skills will begin to improve, as well.  If you have shown them the “cause and effect” correlation that goes with each and every decision that they make, they can begin to make more rational decisions for themselves.

Thinking every decision through to the end may be next to impossible.  However, slowing down and giving yourself a chance to think most things through is the best way to stay in full control of your life.  Teaching your child to slow down and think about the consequences, both immediate and long-term, is imperative to their future!

I think about this daily as I sit in Juvenile Court and watch families with their lives splayed before us.  Looking back, it is often easy to see the instant that it all went wrong.  The challenge comes in teaching the family and/or child to make better choices in those instances and in hoping that the consequences for the bad decision can somehow improve their lives and not cause more harm.

I am hopeful for and working towards a better future for our children.  I am also praying that everyone will join in that goal with me.  I am only one person, but a ripple is all it takes to start a wave….

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