Daniela Ginta writes for The Armchair Mayor on Fridays.
COLUMN — I remember riding the bus to Simon Fraser University through the Vancouver downtown. Early in the morning and then late at night, though often for the night ride I’d take the safer 99 down on Broadway.
The morning bus ran on Hastings, from west to east, crossing some tough terrain on the east side where many people were but shadows, empty eyes and skeletal bodies, some sleeping curled up on the sidewalk, some walking, vociferating, shaking, others carrying transactions in some dark alley.
It was a sad morning routine to see all that. I had many a conversation with friends and colleagues about it and many had nothing but shrugs to offer. It is a tough reality to escape, they said, and unfortunately, inexplicably I’d say, drugs will always find their way into communities and some people will always scramble somehow and get the money to buy it.
I was not a parent yet, but I heard of parents taking their kids to see the reality of mixing drugs with life. Fair enough, I thought, until a woman I met here in Kamloops delivered a sobering statement about drugs: they make people feel good, teenagers and young adults fall for that before they understand the consequences.
Also, by the time they do, some may not have the will power to curb the habit, or they give in to replacements that may be even more dangerous. How then, can we help? Life nowadays and its fast pace combined with a plethora of information falling upon us from behind every corner makes balanced a foreign concept.
As a parent, you cannot but worry about the world your children will enter at some point, when the shield of being close to home will have been thinned down by their growing up. Fast forward to last Saturday when The Globe and Mail featured an article about the dangers of illegal drugs distributed at various, increasingly many, summer music festivals around the country.
Quite a few young people with promising futures – don’t they all, though? – died over the last few months at various music festivals throughout the country because of drug overdose, or because they used altered, dangerously concocted drugs.
A sad thing, but the sadder part was that some believe you cannot expect such organized big events to be entirely drug-free. Instead, the attitude is ‘let’s make it safe because we cannot make it go away.’
But isn’t the concept of safety in this case an illusory reality? If we tell youngsters that they can use drugs but ideally make sure they buy and use the ‘right’ kind, are we empowering them or enabling them?
The human mind, from when we emerge into the world to the times when we become old and wise, grows constantly if given the opportunity. And opportunities to learn and grow are everywhere.
When we tell children they can do better because they have the mind power and the will power they need if only they try it, they will. But they need us, the adults, to tell them so. They trust us, we are the one building the road they’ll step on. If we tell them that using drugs occasionally is OK, as long as you do it safe, they’ll do it and they’ll likely push the ‘safe’ boundaries into worlds unknown and unsafe.
That is also a thing humans are not only capable of doing but known to do, pushing boundaries. It can be done two ways: pushing boundaries towards excelling and being more and stronger than you ever thought you could be, or pushing boundaries towards situations that may appeal to senses, may provide entertainment but due to their nature, can lead to dark realities, often hard or impossible to extract yourself from.
Permissiveness prevents our children to acquire knowledge. When we put ourselves out there and take the time to explain the right and wrong, when we put the energy into establishing and reinforcing healthy boundaries for growing children, we provide them with essential life skills.
They should have the freedom to be curious, the resilience to keep on going, and the ability to use critical thinking because they’ve seen it in action many times before in the adults around them.
A beautiful recent event here in Kamloops set a standard that impressed: no alcohol or drugs were allowed at the Kamloopa Pow Wow. A conversation I had with an elder revealed the boundary issue explained above: there are many people who would use drugs, but if we stand together and make a collective effort to stay on the safe side there is a high chance of helping our young ones better than just making sure that the ones who are passed out make it to the hospital in time.