Last Tuesday, 04/05/2011, I went to a conference titled Serving the Underserved. During this conference, I had the opportunity to explore social issues such as domestic violence, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, as well as mental health mostly regarding the urban population. I was extremely amazed by what the two speakers had to say about their former drug addiction. One of the speakers is Kim. In her introduction, she describes herself as a 42 years old woman with four kids and four grandchildren. Kim said that just like statistics have shown, one of her four children is becoming just like her, a drug addict. Her daughter is currently in treatment but has some series addictions to deal with. She was so addicted to marijuana that she did not stop smoke them even during her pregnancy. She smoked so much and so often, so much so that her son was born with traces of marijuana in his system. It was then that Kim decided to intervene. What I found most interesting about Kim’s speech is how she said that marijuana along with alcohol is a gateway drug. It leads to harder drugs. I never thought of alcohol as a drug. At the end of the speech, she thanked her social worker and her doctor. She thanked them for giving her a second chance, for changing her life, and for making her a better mom as well as a better grandmother.
That night, at my room and sitting in front of my computer, I typed this sentence, Tonight I realized that I am a different person from when I first came to Loyola. I am thankful for my Jesuit education; for exposing me to a variety of social issues and populations. I was certainly empowered by Kim’s speech. I desire to be the person who could give people like her a second chance. I feel comfortable saying that I am capable of changing someone’s life for the better. I think, in fact I know that I feel comfortable saying the above statement because I firmly believe in it! Just like Shane has walked into the Starretts’ lives, Kim has appeared in mine. She is not as “mysterious” or “dangerous” as Joe says of Shane. She was utterly honest, sincere, and most of all, courageous!
I want to expand on Kim’s view of alcohol as a gateway drug. People think that if money is given to a person experiencing homelessness, then they assume that money will be spent on alcohol and or drugs. After Kim’s speech, I begin to wonder about this assumption. College students drink on a regular basis and spend a lot of money on substances that includes both alcohol and or drugs. Addiction is defined as being “abnormally dependent on some habit”. If a person goes out every weekend, is that addiction? On some occasions, college students drink so much that they suffer from alcohol poisoning. Is that addiction? What then makes college students different from people suffering from homelessness? They both spend money on substances. Perhaps college students spend more. Just because they live on a college campus, it does not mean they cannot suffer from addiction. Then, who are we to judge? Who are we to point fingers? Who are we to even decide whether or not a person suffering from homelessness, deserves a second chance? For these reasons, I firmly believe that everyone deserves a second or even a third chance.
My conference experience illuminates this week’s reading, Shane by Jack Schaefer because it demonstrates that a stranger can not only shed new light in one’s life, but can even be integrated into the family. It is all about acceptance. The appearance of Shane was both mysterious and exciting, especially for Bob. He brought something to everyone in the family: something to look forward to to Bob, help with the farm to Joe, and fashion advices to Marian. Later, Joe says to Marian “I don’t think you ever had a safer man in your house” (10). This symbolizes the Starretts acceptance of Joe despite of his appearance. The time they spent together during the summer and the fact Shane is attempting to solve Joe’s personal problems is a testament to this integration.
Looking closely, a former drug addict or even a practicing drug addict is not that far away from our lives. We are conditioned by our society to think that people on the street are different from us. In reality, we are the same. And at times, such as this conference, these marginalized individuals can offer some of the greatest advices and inspirations.