No Change Without Hope

"The young do not know enough to be prudent and therefore they attempt the impossible…and achieve it generation after generation."  Pearl S. Buck

I got the opportunity to meet a woman named Karyn McCluskey last Monday and hear her speak at an event put on by the Police Services Board for the Region of Peel. Karyn has had excellent success in Scotland, spear-heading that country's attempts to reduce violence.

Karyn told a story about David. She showed footage of a young (15-years old I believe?) David from CCTV. He was running with a knife, with a group of friends who were engaged in violence. David stabs a passerby who wasn't involved in this fight and that man later died. David went into custody for murder. Karyn did an excellent job for us of tracing David's history; a violent home, rehoused numerous times due to ongoing violence and other family issues, poverty stricken neighbourhoods. After release from custody 20-something year old David was housed back in one of his old communities surrounded by drug dealers and other criminals. After a couple years David had a child with his girlfriend who lived a couple of doors down.

The question posed to the room was, "What are the chances that this child will have a brighter future than his Dad?"

It's a question that really stuck with me.

In Scotland if you have a parent who went to prison there is a 84% chance that you will end of their too. This child is growing up surrounded by poverty and crime. He has a Dad who was not given the foundation of empathy that kids learn from a healthy family and desperately need formed within them before the age of 8 or it becomes much harder to gain that tool for good healthy relationships and community. I was left to grip the reality that left within that context and those conditions, without intervention, this child does not have a brighter future.

Karyn also really hit upon the word ASPIRATION again and again. We need to have a sense of hope for a positive future and a feeling that we have goals that can be achieved. It is absolutely needed if any of us are going to be able to function in a healthy way.

I am struck by the fact that, if anything is going to change, it is not only this child that needs an injection of hope, but me as well.

It is one thing to ask the question, "Will things be different?" A question that I answered "no" to if there are not other changes that take place. It is another thing to ask the question, "Can things be different?" The thing that fuels me every day and gives me strength to carry on with passion is the fact that I absolutely do and will continue to answer "YES" to this question.

This has been an ongoing theme in my blogs and I was confronted with it again by the words of Karyn McCluskey;

Something better is possible!

I think though that the challenge of Karyn really adds something else to this piece. The hope of this statement is absolutely essential. However, we can't stay there. Believe that something better is possible but also DO SOMETHING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!

One quote from last Monday's session that I loved and shared was, "Work as if you live in the early days of a better Nation". Ah... Golden stuff. This intensifies our aspiration and hope, it starts to resemble faith, which is something even stronger. I will live, not only with the belief that something better is possible but I will live with the confidence that it is going to happen. Things will be better. Young men and women growing up surrounded by poverty and violence will break the cycle and sow the seeds of a better future.

Karyn highlighted the role of mentoring when I posed a question about working with youth who have not had the essential seeds of empathy planted in their childhood. The role of real, loving friendship and positive role models can change the tides and push back the forces which seem as though they will continue to batter our shores  forever.

I started with the quote at the top because we will run across many who think and feel as if this type of dramatic change in a society is IMPOSSIBLE! Pearl Buck captures the truth of achieving the impossible with her words. If you want the impossible to happen, it will come from our youth!

So... have hope, dare to fill your heart with the aspiration that something better is possible and with the courage to live like it's just around the corner!

Work, live and interact as if these are the early days of better world!

Like any real, lasting change, the journey won't be easy, but this is the role of community, that we will find those who like us, desire to live this way and spur each other on with love until we achieve the impossible!


I'm including a video of Karyn speaking in the UK if you want to get a taste for her passionate style of communication. Under her leadership Violence Reduction Scotland has seen a 50% reduction of the overall crime rate.

And another clip addressing policing and the need to address the alienation of the impoverished. "Imagine a different reality..."

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