I'm three hours into a strategic meeting with the executive team from BOSS Magazine before we thankfully break for a meal. It's Sunday, two days before the new year and the last day of the regular season in the NFL. Everyone is scattered throughout the meeting room, some in the seated area, others eating on the round table where we've been discussing different ways to push the magazine forward.
I'm standing in the kitchen with my food on the island speaking to one of the trustees that have invested in BOSS. He also happens to be one of the directors of Doorsteps which he informs me is an organization based in Black Creek that runs multiple outreach programs for both youth and adults that extend far beyond their local community.
As we touch on different topics during the short break, I ask him a question I've asked several community leaders and activists over the past year: "What's the difference?" What is the difference between us and them? He asks me to elaborate and I continue. I ask how is it that two people can come from exactly the same priority neighbourhood, share a generally similar experience of poverty, exposure to drugs and violence, marginalization, yet one of those individuals will overcome and escape the mental trap to live a positive and productive life, and the other will succumb to the trap and become a victim and perpetrator of violence, abuse and sell drugs, and become a drain on society.
"One caring adult," he says. I wait for him to get into some elaborate digression about causality and social infrastructure, or the lack of government support, but he says none of that. "One caring adult," he repeats. "The difference between someone escaping and someone getting caught is often one caring adult."
By then our lunch break was over and everyone was back at the round table. One caring adult. I repeated the phrase over and over in my head. One caring adult. At first I was somewhat relieved. "That's all it takes," I thought. "So then there is hope." But then I thought about how many people I know and grew up with that are trapped. Then I thought about all the drugs and violence and apathy within the priority communities, and the families of the people in these communities and I wondered, One caring adult. Do none of these people that are trapped have at least one caring adult in their lives? Not one person to say "I am here for you." Not one person to say "you're body is precious," or "love yourself first because you are worth it." This can't be true. This can't be right.
Throughout the next few hours of the meeting, my mind reflected back to this possibility. I wasn't sure which way to interpret this hypothesis, if I should be optimistic or skeptical. I decided to be hopeful, to believe that we need to give these trapped minds a chance. I can be that one caring adult, any of us can. Anyone living through the struggle needs to seek out this one caring adult and we need to make ourselves available. One caring adult. That's all it takes. Powerful in its simplicity, practical in its application. Let's create hope for all of those that are trapped and be their escape. One caring adult. An enlightening vision indeed.
Read my novel "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," available in print and e-book format at www.kerncarter.com.