Last night, my family went to eat at Zaxby's with a couple of the students from my church. We were enjoying our food when the restaurant inexplicably began to fill up with teenagers - some of whom I was familiar with. In fact, I got up and hugged one of the kids because I taught her last semester at the Grayson Christian Learning Center. We chatted briefly about our respective summers, and then separated, but I remember walking out of Zaxby's and looking at all those kids and thinking:
"Man, I hope none of them go do anything stupid."
So imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I woke up and saw the Patch headline, I quickly read the article, and realizing that the names of the students involved had not yet been released, I hit Twitter and Facebook to see if I could find anything out.
Within five minutes, I had three different responders. The names they provided were the same. Within twenty minutes, I had seven responses.
Same names each time.
I don't know the students involved; and while I grieve for their families, there was a sense of relief that it wasn't any of the kids I'm close to. That sounds callous, I know, but it's what I felt. I was greatly relieved to know that neither of the two students who were injured were drinking or otherwise impaired, and I hope that that the law deals with the intoxicated driver quickly and fairly. As the police issue their findings and the families and friends involved begin to pick up the pieces, that's all that's left.
Or is it?
I know that DUI fatalities are random things, that they are the result of poor choices and fate. I also know that car crashes period are constants in our traffic-riddled metropolis, and it is unreasonable to expect a low number of incidents involoving teenaged drivers. Sheer statistics makes such occurances highly likely.
But I also know that the closer I become to some of our younger generation, the more keenly I am aware that a pervasive and permissive culture exists. I see it in the number of kids who are smoking weed. I see it in the number of kids who are drinking. I see it in the number of kids who are casual about sex. And it concerns me.
I'm not advocating a lockdown, or calling for a return to Puritan values (that would be dumb), but I am asking if our community is turning a blind eye to a growing trend within our youth - an increasingly cavalier attitude characterized by the acronym "YOLO": You Only Live Once. The idea being that it's okay to do things that you know are dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised, because, hey - you only live once.
Nevermind that by doing the aforementioned dangerous, illegal, stupid or otherwise ill-advised thing, you may not live that long.
I'm guilty of promoting it. Looking back now, I'm sure that some of my younger charges have heard tales of my collegaite stupidity and thought, "He turned out okay. So will I." But the truth of the matter is I didn't turn out okay. I came through my period of rebellion with scars, some of which still run deep. I came out okay despite my stupid behavior, not because of it.
I'll grant that what's going on in our schools is nothing new. Kids have been experimenting with drugs and booze and sex and who knows what else for as long as most folks can remember. But what has changed is their perception of those things: once upon a time, it was If we do this and get caught, we're gonna be in trouble. Now, it seems to be If we do this, it'll be fun.
Suddenly, there's no fear of consequences. In fact, there's no fear of much of anything.
Suddenly, I find myself at a loss as to where we even begin to change this subtle undercurrent, this riptide of laissez faire. And it leaves me asking:
Is something wrong in Grayson?
I know I'm going to take some shots over this, but I think maybe it's time we took a long collective look in the mirror. Your thoughts are welcomed below.