Turning a blind eye doesn’t solve problem

As young teachers in village schools, we found abuse of alcohol to play a major role in our community. We dealt with it on a daily basis and eventually felt burned out and numb. My wake up call came when at 7:00 in the morning we greeted a woman laying along the trail to school with a “good morning.” Our youngest son asked “Why is Mimi’s mama laying there?” And my reply was “Oh honey, she’s just drunk” and we hurried on to school. I was shocked that I had just taken as normal that a mother would be laying inebriated along a trail at 7 am. I was sure that never would I ever again be complacent to those in need that I came upon.

Today, 38 years later, I realize that I’ve slipped into acceptance once again. As I was checking out at a local store today I noticed a young woman leaning against a display. I mentioned to the cashier that the woman looked in need of help. No response. Then the woman straightened up and looked around. She had a glazed look, staggered a bit and then draped herself over another counter. As she again straightened up I again mentioned to the cashier that the gal looked in bad shape. She looked up at the young woman and then just started checking out the next customer and I hurried on to home.

What had I just done? First, I had assumed she had a drug or alcohol problem, and second, I didn’t follow through with help! My response was symptomatic of a large portion of our society failing to be proactive in dealing with the drug and alcohol problems plaguing our communities. I did call the store as employees must be proactive but both the cashier and myself failed that young woman. Blinders won’t work — acceptance as a community won’t work — we can’t give up.