A lesson we could all learn

By John Peters - jpeters@civitasmedia.com

There’s a lot of controversy going on in our society of late.

People are screaming at and cursing one another over a piece of cloth known as the Confederate Flag, while no one much seems to care about nine people gunned down on June 17 in a Charleston, South Carolina, church or about taking concrete actions to help avoid this sort of hate-filled violence in the future.

People are arguing over whether ESPN was correct in calling Bruce Jenner a hero or, as those who are of a more contrary but kindly nature might say, he’s just an attention-seeking publicity hound looking for another 15 minutes of fame (and those of a not-so-kindly nature say things we won’t repeat).

While people spend so much energy on the bad, it’s too easy to overlook the good, and I think we have some truly remarkable stories here in Surry County.

I’m speaking specifically of some local probationers highlighted in a couple of recent stories by staff writer Terri Flagg. The probationers have been part of a program sponsored by the Department of Community Corrections aimed at praising and more actively recognizing those who are successfully meeting their probation obligations and are successfully integrating themselves back into society.

The tales of some of these folks are awe-inspiring (see “Probation program awards success,” July 11 edition of The Mount Airy News). One maintained a job while homeless, sleeping on the streets some nights. Another rides a bike more than three hours round-trip to counseling meetings.

Meeting the demands these folks face — mandatory employment, probation meetings, counseling, and a number of others, sometimes with no resources at their disposal — would be difficult for many of us. For those without the benefits of higher education or a strong family backing, it can be doubly challenging. And when you throw in the general attitude of society regarding those convicted of crimes — an attitude that generally says lock them up and forget about them, they deserve whatever they get — it’s a wonder anyone can succeed when facing such challenges.

But many of the folks mentioned in that article, and in a follow-up piece (Probation successes honored, the July 14 edition of The Mount Airy News), are succeeding, and may some day even be seen as thriving.

Are they heroes? No, they are people who have made mistakes — some of them a lot of mistakes — and many of the challenges and obstacles they face are of their own making.

But now they are working hard, trying to make a difference in their own lives and, in some case, the lives of their kids and relatives. They’re not so much worried about symbols or what people do or don’t read into a sign or flag somewhere. Instead, they’re simply getting up each day, looking ahead and doing the positive work they need to do.

Perhaps in that, these folks are worth emulating.

People can sit around all day at their computer screens having virtual arguments over what is and isn’t a hero, what a particular flag or symbol means. Or, people can forget all the meaningless noise, find some meaningful goals to pursue and then get to work, much like these probationers have.

As for me, I’m with the probationers. They certainly are teaching a lesson we can all learn.

John Peters is editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 336-719-1931 or at jpeters@civitasmedia.com


By John Peters


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