One of the many takeaways for me from the ongoing “Curing Our Coast” features on addiction is how brave many families are being about sharing their personal stories. It’s noteworthy because it hasn’t always been this way. Embarrassment is being turned into advocacy and it’s exciting.
These families who have been victimized by this horrific disease called addiction are looking to become a part of the solution. They are willing to expose their raw emotions and tell their stories because they want to prevent others from having to go through the heartache they have endured in their own lives. That’s truly selfless. While maybe overly optimistic, I believe it’s going to make a difference.
Many personal stories were told Tuesday night, while others have been reported on these pages the last few weeks. Meanwhile, many states away a local couple — who was on the minds of many at this week’s Worcester County Warriors Against Opiate Addiction meeting — sent a message to the legion of individuals following their situation. A couple weeks ago, the couple received word their son had overdosed and was hospitalized in an unresponsive state. Out of respect for the family, no names will be included, but the fact is their son is still alive today but has many hurdles to overcome in the near future.
The mother posted this message on the family’s Caring Bridge page that I thought would resonate with many.
“I feel led to say this, and if I offend anyone, I am very sorry. I hope that through all this, you have softened to how you may have viewed addicts in the past,” she wrote. “Please, please realize that addiction steals the person away from us, and please do not hate the person, hate the addiction. Addicts use whatever they choose to mask the pain they feel inside. For [our son], it began when he lost his father in the 9th grade. If you have someone you love in active addiction, please reach out to them. Send them a text, call, or send them a card. You never know when the one time you throw out the life ring might be the one time they grab it. “
Social media is a blessing and a curse and that reality is on display on a daily basis in the news dissemination business.
Spreading breaking news as well as community articles through the company’s various Internet resources makes sense. The public’s right to know is immediate. However, it’s the moderation of the public’s comments that can be problematic. A case in point was last Thursday’s fatal motorcycle accident on 28th Street. Another came Saturday night with the fatal balcony fall. Another came Monday with the accident at Stephen Decatur High Schools.
These were two tragic events and fortunately one that was not. The comments section of the initial posts and subsequent articles featured some nasty and cruel allegations about the individuals involved as well as law enforcement. It was a disgusting chore to moderate these comments. At one point, in a fit of frustration, I started banning dozens of people who then decided to orchestrate a campaign against the paper’s Facebook page, partnering with others of like minds to give it dozens of one-star ratings within minutes. All the while I was trying to delete every comment with an expletive, even if it was rational aside from the foul language.
There are numerous positives that come with social media, but unfortunately there is a dark side. It exposes the ignorance and lack of compassion of many who are fearless while hiding behind their phones and keyboards. They are reckless and mean spirited and it’s tough to tolerate at times. Last weekend was one of those times. One must take the good with the bad in life and this was just one of those times.
It’s not difficult to figure out why former Worcester County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jon Andes once told me that visiting Cedar Chapel Special School was one of his favorite parts of his job. The place is amazing and a huge source of inspiration.
It’s the people who work there and tirelessly look to impact the lives of these special needs individuals and their families that represent the best human nature has to offer. This week’s story and photos about the school’s Class of 2016, which is comprised of two, 21-year-olds, documents the celebration that comes with this huge achievement.
High school graduations are proud moments for students and their families. However, for many, it’s an expected accomplishment. It’s not something to hope for any longer. Nowadays, the same can actually be said for college graduations. Successful people are expected to graduate from high school and then secure a college degree afterwards.
At Cedar Chapel Special School, the expectations are different, and that’s why the achievements deserve to be celebrated with a special flair. It was great to see the two graduates this year get to partake for the first time in the customary victory lap for graduating seniors. They were feted and they deserved it.
The words of Tiffany Taylor, mother of Hunter Schoolfield, who has Down’s Syndrome, reflected accurately on the school. She said, “They have helped him grow so much. A lot of people look at him like he’s a challenge, but he’s my child and I never doubted anything that he would or could do, I just knew he would do it slower than the rest of the kids his age.”