As we all begin the process of coping with another great tragedy, the murders in Oregon, we need to try to understand what motivates someone to kill. Sadly it seems, we have another isolated individual who didn’t fit it, came from a broken home and craved attention any way he could get it. It’s the same profile of many of the kids I work with in foster care.
A couple of years ago, I got called to pick up a kid at the ER and take him to the psychiatric hospital for evaluation. The police officer who was standing guard told me the boy had gotten in a fight at school and stabbed a classmate with a pencil. The officer put him in the car with me and wished me luck. The very first thing this little boy said to me was, “Don’t make me mad, I might have to kill you.” I immediately stopped the car and asked, “What did you say?” He replied, “I’ll stab you to death if I have to.” I wasn’t exactly scared by threats from a nine-year-old but I did take him seriously. It was the unflinching way he said it that convinced me. It was as if nothing mattered to him. There was no empathy, just a heartless individual who was giving me fair warning. I tried to change the subject so I asked him what he liked to do – sports, fishing, movies, reading? “No, I just play video games,” was his answer. So I foolishly asked which ones. He said, ” My mom bought me GTA when I was four.” I have limited experience with video games, so it took me a while to figure out that he meant Grand Theft Auto. Based on a few articles I have read criticizing this game, I finally realized what I was dealing with in my back seat. This was a kid who had spent all of his formative years playing the most violent video game ever and by the age of nine he was perfectly willing to threaten an adult who was twice his size. Think about this for just a minute. If he had just let himself out of his seat belt, jumped into the front seat and grabbed the steering wheel we would have both died on the highway that night. I’m grateful he gave me fair warning because I never took my eyes off him for the whole hour we were together. That’s just one boy. I could write several pages more with similar experiences.
After seven years of working with foster kids, I think I’m entitled to make some realistic observations about the future of this country. If we don’t find a way to catch these kids before they fall into the pit of despair, then we will reap what we sow. Most of these kids are desperate for human contact more than anything else. They want to know someone cares about their lives and that their problems are real. They need encouragement from any and all who can find it in their hearts to show some compassion to the littlest ones with the greatest needs. Amazingly enough, in my experience, most kids respond to the tiniest bit of praise with gleeful smiles. It takes almost no real effort on my part to make a positive impact. I hold their hands, I sing songs on the radio and I ask them about their day, nothing more is needed.
Here’s my plea to everyone who reads this blog. Stop for a moment and think about the things that made you happy as a kid. For me at least, it was always an interaction with another person, not my possessions. All of my best memories are from the times when an adult praised me or made me laugh or gave me a hug. I don’t remember any of the presents I ever got for my birthdays. Human contact is the only way to give kids a reason to live. Without it, death is too easy.
We all know people who don’t fit in and luckily most of them never do anything horrible, like this killing in Oregon. I feel bad for this young man. No one paid attention to him and he became a loner. Then he gave up all hope and did something to get our collective attention. In that, he succeeded. Now everyone knows his name. The media will make sure of that and in the end he gets what he wanted most, attention. Something we all could have given him before this tragedy. We can all point fingers at guns, video games, broken families and the media but the bitter truth is we’re all at fault for our inhumanity. Blaming external influences gets us off the hook as individuals and we don’t have to face our faults as humans but we all know the truth. I’ve covered this ground many times before but today it hit too close to home because I see kids like this every day of my life. From here on out, I’m going to try even harder to connect with every kid I meet. I’m going to make sure they know I care for them and I will find a way to encourage them no matter how broken they might be. I’ll take care of my corner of this planet, will you take care of yours?
Dr. Meninger gave us the solution to this problem when he made this statement, “Love cures people – both the ones who receive it and the ones who give it.”
©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.