Thursday, January 15, 2009

Aaron Shafer: 2009 - The Year Of Our Hearts

Aaron Shafer is a researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the driving force behind Skatelife Memphis:

My hope is that this is the year that we stop pointing fingers at each other and rid ourselves of a toxic welfare mentality. There is this pervading attitude that someone else needs to take care of our city's problems. Indeed there is a strong need for leadership to provide vision and plans to improve our children’s educational opportunities. There is a need for strong accountability, efficiency and transparency within our city government. Indeed there is a need for leadership that will inspire us to see a better day. But in the meantime we need to stop looking for the government and others to come up with the entire plan and realize that a large share of the problem is an issue of the heart- our hearts.

The elusive silver bullet

Sheriff Mark Luttrell politely touched on the core issue that we are dealing with here in Memphis. We have a “crime cycle’ that will only really be stopped by our participation. It is a cycle that will derail ALL other efforts to make Memphis a place that “attracts and retains” working professionals and most importantly to make Memphis a place for all of our children to grow up safely.

The Sheriff spoke at one of our neighborhood meetings recently, and I asked him about whether we needed stiffer sentences and he told me that we simply don’t have the funds to pay for bigger prisons. Stiffer sentences are bankrupting the California prison system. He was more concerned about the participation of the church and individuals.

In 2009, may the church take its mission seriously and follow the example of its founder, social revolutionary that held nothing back, he put other people first, he hung out with the dregs of society and thanklessly devoted and sacrificed his privileged celestial lifestyle for people that hated him.

What does this look like in Memphis? Consider Fellowship Memphis: Fellowship Memphis has adopted an entire high school and witnessed a complete turn around in the schools math scores thanks to their efforts.

It deeply saddens me that a city with several thousand churches can be the same city that possesses the highest infant mortality rates, highest crime rates, high drop-out rates and high HIV infection rates. Let’s all hope that this year that our leaders will promote an adopt-a-school program for churches.

If that’s too big- adopt a class room. On an individual level, our children need mentors. If we take our beliefs seriously, regardless of their origins, Memphis will rapidly experience a long needed healing and a restored beauty reflected in its citizens.


Anonymous said...

Now that's a solution, one of many BRAVO!!!!!

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, what children need is their parents and the only reason they don't have them is multigenerational cultural denial. The culture of a successful family is not in their neighborhood. It may have never been in their history. There are too many for mentors to affect, not that people shouldn't try, but, since the local government is what is destroying them, I'd say it's high time they step up and rehabilitate and retrain parents that are incarcerated or have been incarcerated with an effective program and a job that pays them enough and where they know they are contributing to the betterment of Memphis in a substantial way.
If we can't put families back together and have them succeed, no effort will be anything but an exercise in futility and wasted, uncoordinated, duplication.


Thanks so much for the article, pretty useful data.