Letter to the Editor

Stemming sickness

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dear Editor,

The events that took place in Omaha this past week should make us all realize that we should be prepared to meet our maker at any time.

No one is safe as long as the type of sickness that victimized the Hawkins boy continues to infect some of our teenagers. While teenagers seem to be the most vulnerable, adults are also vulnerable as seen by the church shootings in Colorado just a few days after the Omaha debacle.

What is the answer to this growing problem that has us all wondering what city or community in the United States will be the next to suffer a similar tragedy, or whether I or a member of my own family will be gunned down by some mentally disturbed person? What is the answer?

Many years ago, Father Flannigan, founder of Boys Town in Omaha, was quoted as saying, "There is no such thing as a bad boy."

Now, how do we reconcile this statement with what occurred in Omaha? Did Father Flannigan know something that we don't? I believe he did and what he probably meant was that "Inside every bad boy is a good boy trying to get out."

Now, how do you get the good boy out of the bad boy? It seems to me we take too much for granted: brothers and sisters within the family unit ignore each others' very presence, fathers and mothers are not in the least curious about their childrens' whereabouts or how their school day went, not realizing that all human beings want to be recognized for who they are and for what they do.

Human dignity is given to a person by recognizing him or her which enables a person to be able to say "I exist, for someone said, 'How are you?' 'How was your day?' 'Where are you going?' 'How do you feel?"' etc. etc. If family members and/or the community at large don't give that "recognition" and take each other for granted, the shunned member will go elsewhere for "recognition" which is really what everyone wants and that is "to be loved."

If you think my theory, which I believe to have been that of Father Flannigan, is an over-simplification, let me remind you of the Hawkins boy's "Last Hurrah" where he bragged to his friends, "I'm going to be famous" -- translated -- "I'm going to be recognized," and, lacking this daily recognition that he needed, he settles for the infamous recognition of being recognized for the consummately, cowardly act of gunning down innocent, defenseless people, and for the ultimate, cowardly act of suicide; and, rather than famous, the name Hawkins becomes infamous, and as long as memory lasts, the name Hawkins will go down in infamy.

How many lives have already been lost because we fail to recognize others with a few simple words of greeting so that they can say to themselves, "Hey! I exist. I was just recognized." Imagine, if you can, how depressing it would be if you were the only person living on this planet earth, with no one else here to recognize your existence. This is probably how the Hawkins boy and his predecessors felt -- alone on this planet earth before losing all respect for fellow human beings as well as their own loss of self respect for their own human dignity.

Whatever your status is in life, whether it be parent, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, student, teacher, or whatever your situation in a community, we need your help to stem the source of this scary social sickness which has infected modern society.

How? Simple! Make sure that people within your purview, on any particular day, are recognized by you with a few simple words of greeting, so that these potential loners can feel that they are not alone and can say to themselves, "I exist! Someone just recognized me," Albeit, unwittingly, you could be saving the life of some innocent human being down the line.


J.G. McHale


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