Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ripple Effect

The statistics are so well known. Teen childbearing tends to follow a family cycle. Children born to teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, serve time incarcerated. They are also more likely to have a child early in life. It is a vicious cycle that we have to break—and it will take every part of our society to do so.

But recently I was reminded of the other side.

Many years ago I returned from a meeting of the SC Campaign. At supper that evening we were discussing the meeting when suddenly our youngest daughter, who was about 8 at the time, let out a heavy sigh and said, “Sex, Sex, Sex! Can’t we talk about something else!” (And yes, I am a Baptist minister!)

Because of my involvement with the SC Campaign, sex was a common dinnertime conversation. My daughters heard us discussing the reasons teens shouldn’t be engaged in risky behaviors, of our hope for their lives, for the values that informed the choices we had made. They even heard about birth control and how we hoped they would make good and intelligent choices. It was just one of the things we talked about.

And it has rippled!

The other week our oldest daughter was home. She is now married and teaching in an inner city charter school. It is a different world from the one in which she grew up. Recently a young man was misbehaving in her class and so they went out in to the hall to talk.

“You can’t be acting this way in my class,” she said.
“But I have stuff going on. I’ve got babies on the way!” he said.
“No! I got 2 babies coming with different girls!”
This young man is 17.

Another young man had missed an entire week of school. When he came in to see about making up his work he informed her that he had been out the previous week because it was his “week to take care of the baby.” He and the mother were alternating weeks while the other went to school.

As my daughter was telling me these stories I wondered about the ripple effects again. What about this young man who had been irresponsible and now was facing multiple fatherhood? What about this young couple who were trying to juggle school and childcare and growing up?

When we think about teen pregnancy we often focus on the hard statistics, but what about the good ones? I had to wonder about those dinner conversations we had, and how they were now rippling across our country to a high school where a young teacher was a safe place, where she might help intervene to break this cycle. I wonder about the conversations that parents have as they watch “Glee;” as they make their way home from church; as they talk about values and beliefs and reasons why decisions are made.

Those conversations have a ripple effect too! Oh, they will never show up on stat sheet—but they make all the difference in the world. They show up in a classroom teacher, in a college student.

Those are the ripples we need to be producing. So toss a pebble into the pond. Who knows where it might lead!

It might just change a life!

By Don Flowers, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board Member and Reverend at Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.

No comments:

Post a Comment