Learning to use the tools we have for social reform in Ohio: Matthew Stevens (Opinion)

Guest columnist Matthew F. Stevens is founder of Hurt Ends And Development Starts a non-profit organization based in Ohio. He serves on the board for several non-profits, including B.O.S.S. as well as a local teen center in his hometown of Cambridge,...

Learning to use the tools we have for social reform in Ohio: Matthew Stevens (Opinion)

Guest columnist Matthew F. Stevens is founder of Hurt Ends And Development Starts a non-profit organization based in Ohio. He serves on the board for several non-profits, including B.O.S.S. as well as a local teen center in his hometown of Cambridge, Ohio.

Matthew StevensMatthew Stevens 

It goes without saying we live in turbulent times. People are uneasy to say the least. With all the reforms taking place and changes that are happening, people are expressing anger more than ever before, but is that reality?

Are we angry or do people feel more reason to express that anger? My thoughts on this are different from most. I do not believe anger should be a primary response. We are expressing fear, confusion, embarrassment, pain and those feelings lead us to displaying anger.

The question is, why? As a society, we don't know any better, even with this most basic human emotion. In our society, we have been taught to be reactive rather than proactive. This is seen in everything from our educational system to the way we handle crime in our neighborhoods. The more we increase our knowledge and teach others to do the same, the more options we provide ourselves. We can only use the skills we've been taught. We often take for granted that everyone has been taught the same skill set as us, nothing could be further from the truth.

This is completely normal, but also counterproductive. Social services agencies are trying to help people make changes in their lives. It would be logical to teach others through their life lessons not that of our own. For example, a social worker may come up with a plan for one of their clients that outline the following:

You are to provide a clean-living environment for your children.

You are to provide your children with approved childcare.

You will not have your child around drugs.

We have our own standards of clean, and a lot of times that standard is based on the environment we were raised in, so saying the word "clean" is a matter of perception.

Then we look at the word "childcare." Many children were brought up babysitting their siblings from ages as early as 5 years old.

We tell people that they shouldn't exposure their children to drugs. Again many of us would see marijuana as a drug, but for a lot of people, smoking marijuana is as common as smoking cigarettes. The point is if we are going to start creating stronger communities we must help those we serve to clearly define success and then achieve it.

The good news is that we don't have to undo the work that's already been done. We must start educating individuals from a different vantage point, not taking for granted what they should know. By re-educating through social service programs with this line of thought, we will see neighborhoods and families become communities.

It is up to each agency to take a fresh look at how they are teaching and give an honest evaluation as to if they are seeing their desired results. The truth is a powerful tool, but only when we use it truthfully.

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