|Birds of a feather tend to flock together.|
How can we help them to stretch their wings and fly?
The daughter of a close friend of mine was found with marihuana in the glove compartment of her car on school property recently. This was a serious violation of state law as well as school code. State Police remanded her to school for discipline because of the amount and it was her first offense. She was placed on a ten-day suspension until her hearing with the school was scheduled.
In preparation for that meeting, my friend asked if I would write a character recommendation for her daughter. I agreed, but asked permission to share her story (maintaining anonymity, of course). It was a wake-up call for the everyone involved. Both my friend and her daughter wanted to do anything they could to help steer any other family from this emotional and destructive experience.
The hearing was this morning. The outcome involves counseling, abstinence from drug use (random drug-testing) and the loss of the use of her car on campus. Her family is devising a few of their own rules, I suspect.
Oct. 28, 2014
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing on behalf of Ellen Rose, a young woman whom I have known for her entire life. It has come to my attention that she has made some disappointing choices concerning drug use and the friends with whom she has been associating. Not withstanding some of her recent behaviors, I can attest to Ellen’s character; she comes from a responsible family and was raised within an exemplary code of honor and values.
From an early age, Ellen was taught the importance of responsibility, of work and of fiscal independence. Her parents fostered her initiative when she started a pet-care business at the age of nine. She still has clients to this day. When both Ellen and her parents agreed she was ready to babysit, she took the Babysitting Course offered through the Red Cross.
Ellen’s nurturing nature was put to good use, not only doing weekend sitting jobs. At thirteen, she had inspired enough confidence in several local families that, during the summer, they entrusted the care of their children to Ellen during the workday. (Delia, Ellen’s mother, was always on call for any emergencies). Ellen has had a singular goal for years; she has wanted to be the owner of her own salon. She was excited to be accepted into a technical high school program because she hoped to learn the skills she would need to work in, and manage, her own business.
At present, it appears Ellen’s moral compass seems to have faltered. Perhaps Ellen has been doing some behavioral experimenting as she steps out from the shadow of her two older, and successful, sisters. Over the past four years, Ellen has sought to understand who she is relative to her family, her friends and her community. It has been a difficult road for her, culminating in this eye-opening crash with reality. Ellen is devastated to have let down her parents, her siblings, her grandparents, and, of course, the people that believed in and trusted her at theTechnical Program.
It is at this moment she needs us most. If we believe that Ellen has the potential to contribute to society in a meaningful way, we need to help her find her way back –teach her to use this experience as a springboard to maturity. Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich wrote, “Every adversity , every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” What can we do to nurture that seed?
A close friend of mine has worked for Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom for decades. Sumner came from nothing, and now, in his nineties, is worth $6.2 billion. Sumner says that, “Success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. Sometimes, it’s built on catastrophe.” This is a unique opportunity for Ellen to experience failure and reshape it into success. For that to happen, we have to believe in her.
I am a strict adherent ofNewton’s Third Law… that with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. With every mistake, there must be consequences. However, the consequences must be thoughtful and measured when they come to altering the life path of a young woman. This is a unique opportunity for school administrators to preserve Ellen’s fragile spirit and nurture it so that she can grow into her personal definition of greatness. Let’s not make the mistake of allowing what could be no more than a footnote in her life-story to become the overarching theme of a lifetime. She need not be condemned to repeat a cycle of behaviors that are destructive and borne out of low self-esteem. We can see Ellen struggling to gain attention from her family and her peers. To get the most out of our children, we need to expect more, believe more and remind them more that they are capable of more than they believe possible. Let’s teach Ellen how to earn our respect and gain self-respect. I respectfully submit the request that Ellen’s consequences be designed to teach her that the adults in her life see she has worth and that redemption is possible in the presence of true remorse.