Time to take responsibility

Published 11:36 am Tuesday, March 12, 2013

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

When I was 6, my estranged mother came to my school, walked right into my first grade class during a spelling test, and took me from the classroom.

I hadn’t seen my mom for at least a year until that day. I don’t recall what she said to the teacher or me, but the next moment that followed was my mother and me hitchhiking to Florida — just me, Momma, and the clothes on our back.

I could write these editorials for years and start them with stories such as that. My family, like many in our community, fought hard to rid themselves of the thorn of the flesh, but the thorn will always be there.

It is your method of mediating that infliction that will make you different from others. Some handle it through substance abuse, others by violence, suicide or religion.

I was fortunate enough to have a grandmother that wouldn’t give up and taught me the “right way.” She’d squeeze me with hugs and kiss my cheek until I was blue in the face, but be quick to order me to the hedges to break off a switch when I got unruly. I wouldn’t want to raise me, but she did. I was lucky to be raised by a member of our greatest generation, and she taught me responsibility. As I fast-forward 40 years, I reflect on my Nanny’s teachings. I have conducted hundreds of interviews with suspects that do not want to take responsibility for their actions. I am completely aware of the struggles that some go through and I can’t wrap my mind around the horrors that others have overcome. However, the fact of the matter is that we must individually take ownership in everything we do. For every action, there is a reaction.

Twenty-two percent of our nation’s children are currently living below the poverty level. One in seven people are illiterate, we are ranked 50th out of 223 reporting countries in infant mortality and we are 18th in math literacy.

If each of these impoverished children grow up to only blame someone or something else, we will never be as great as we once were. We cannot legislate morality and our children must be taught to be passionate about something, preferably something worthwhile that makes a contribution to society. We all pay for people that refuse to own up for what they’ve done. There is no marketing campaign, tax or law that is going to fix what is inside your heart. Our court system is backlogged and we rank the highest in the world in incarcerating our citizens. Mistakes that we make are our faults, and we should own up to them, but the old adage is true — it’s not how hard you get knocked down, but how quickly you get back up. Now go hug your children.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at cgeorge@shelbyso.com.