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The very definition of "disturbing"

I hope you will excuse the fact that this is my second post in a few weeks that is related to the youth that I work with, but I witnessed something yesterday that I believe further drives home the bigger point I was attempting to make. When I arrived at the elementary school to pick up the students I work with day-to-day, walking out of the office was a group of 3 adults and a 5th grade student in handcuffs behind his back. This young man is a regular student in a regular class, but on this particular day had a conflict with a female student and went into a rage. As they always do, stories varied from student to student about what actually happened in the classroom, but what it all came down to was a 10 or 11 year old losing control to such a degree that handcuffs became the best option to remove him. Are we numb to this? After the tragedies that have happened in schools across the country since Columbine, perhaps you responded like I did initially yesterday and said, “well thank-goodness it didn’t involve a gun….or a knife….or a…..” In some ways, those responses are spot-on. Thank-goodness this situation didn’t involve those things. But we’re also missing a bigger issue—violent outbursts and situations aren’t limited to young adults and adults in high schools and colleges anymore: there are heavy gang influences showing up in area middle schools, and I’ve heard elementary students as young as 6 use words and terms that make me shudder. So why post this on a fly-fishing blog? These blogs are usually filled with pictures and videos of amazing places and fish, updates on issues concerning the fly-fishing community, and funny/amazing/inspirational clips and blurbs that fall somewhere in between. As I see it, the story of this young man connects to fly-fishing in two ways: The first one is that most of us love fly-fishing and the outdoors (myself included) because it temporarily removes us from a world that is too full of violence, destruction, and troubles—it’s a way to concern ourselves only with the beauty of the perfect loop, a fish rising, and the seemingly hand painted pattern of wild fish. Fly-fishing often represents a healthy release for us; a way to deal with our stresses, frustrations, and joys in a manner that is not destructive. Unfortunately, a lot of kids today don’t have a healthy way to release the pressures and pain they feel. When a young person doesn’t have healthy options engrained in their minds, they resort to the expression that is most common in their lives—and living in a world where they are bombarded with violence at every turn, is it any surprise that this is the method taken by a growing number of young people? I’ve had 1st graders talk about “jumping” or “jacking” people at school. When asked where they learned what those phrases meant, they often talk about the video games they play or movies they watch. Because of the autonomy kids feel on-line, and because of the lack of social norms and regulations that exist in the dream worlds of video games and movies, a large number of young people no longer know how to deal with individuals face-to-face, much less how to deal with the negative feelings they feel. Simply put, kids need to be introduced to healthy outlets, and it’s my personal opinion that we all love a sport that is one of the best. The second connecting point is that if we simply write off a large portion of this generation as hopeless, or we give up on trying to expose them to the outdoors because they seemingly have no interest, we have failed at one of our major tasks as lovers of the outdoors—passing it on. The famous Chief Seattle quote is, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” However, one of the lines that comes just before that quote stresses the imperative nature of teaching kids to love and respect the earth. To simply pass on a foreign object that they have no personal experience with won’t be of much use. When we arrived at program yesterday I spent a few minutes with the kids talking about the situation that had happened at school. I tried to stress to them that every single one of them would encounter multiple “boiling point” situations in their lives. Maturity is being able to make a positive choice despite your brain telling you to blow up. I then challenged them to think about the incident at school not as a wild story that they can tell their friends about, but instead as a chance to put themselves into that situation and begin to figure out what they would have done differently, and how they will handle future boiling points. You only get better at things through practice. But, I also want to challenge you. Kids from all walks of life need positive influences in their lives, and they need people who are passionate to share their passions. Please, find a way to get involved with kids in your area, and with kids on the margins if possible. It was disgusting to see an 11 year old in handcuffs, but it immediately made me wonder if he knew any other choice.
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