Being a part of the local newspaper means that I get to wear a lot of hats. Yes, I write stories and take pictures; but I'm also in the rotation to take the trash out; have been known to work on the bathroom toilet a time or two; I've shoveled the sidewalk; and delivered a copy of the paper to a subscriber who didn't get their issue on a particular day.
One of the things that I do on a weekly basis leads me to the overall theme of this column. You don't have to agree with me; but that's okay, because it's a column and it's got my name on it; and -for what it's worth - it's how I view things.
That said, every Tuesday afternoon I go to the Switzerland County Sheriff's Department and pick up the information for the public record. The staff of the sheriff's office has always been very accommodating, so getting the information that I need to share with you is relatively easy.
Every once in awhile, when I go into the front door and walk over to the phones that allow me to tell the staff I'm there and what I need; I walk through a lobby that is filled with other people. They are young and old, men and women, and they are all there for the same reason - to sit on a metal stool, pick up a telephone receiver, and speak through a video hook up with a member of their family who's being held at the jail. It has to be a very humbling time, because there's no "hiding", you're sitting there, and people are walking in and out, and there's not much privacy.
I feel sorry for those who are sitting there, because the actions of someone else has led them to that moment; because the person in jail has the advantage of being on the small screen.
Over time, you get used to fixing your eyes on the phones on the west wall, walking straight to them and looking at the wall while you await entrance into the facility. You try and not make eye contact, because you have this feeling of what those folks are going through.
But a couple of weeks ago, I again had an experience that needs to be addressed:
I walked in, and sitting alone on one of the metal stools was a young lady. Nicely dressed, she leaned closely into the monitor, speaking softly to the man on the other end of the line.
Beside her on the floor, was a 'baby bucket', and in that was this precious little, tiny, baby girl. She had a big bow around her head; a little flowery dress; and was taking a nap while sucking on a tiny pacifier.
As I waited by the phone, I heard, "She's here with me, but she's asleep right now. We really need you to get out of there."
I wanted to walk over, take the phone from the girl's hand, look into the monitor, and tell the guy on the other end that he needed to heed her words.
There are a lot of problems in our country, I admit that; but it is my belief that many issues could be settled if young men in our country simply did one thing:
Grow up, be a man, and take care of the family that they had a role in creating.
Being young and free is fun; but if you're big enough to make a baby; then you're big enough to take care of that baby - and the woman you made that baby with.
That tiny girl in that bucket didn't get to choose you. She didn't get to choose how her young life was; and how her childhood will play out. She didn't get to say, "I need stable parents. Parents who will love me and care for me and make sure I have what I need."
And, although she and other can't speak, she would probably like to say, "I don't need a daddy that mommy and I have to talk to through a TV screen. I need a daddy who will take responsibility and go to work and take care of me."
Now, there are people out there who are laughing, because they don't want to take responsibility. They are too self centered to take away from their free time to raise a child; and most of the time they are too self centered to care about anything other than themselves. There's only so much money to go around, after all, right? And you need your truck and some beer money more than you need to take care of your child. Nights out with friends are much more important than nights in with your kid.
A truth you need to know: those of us who are working hard and paying taxes that support social programs that care for the family you choose to ignore are really getting tired. We're tired to the government using our money to pay for things that you should be paying for. We do it, because children out there like that little girl and others can't help the situation that they're in; so we're going to take care of them.
But, guy in jail: you need to do your part.
Yes, I understand that it's hard. I understand that going to work at a job you don't like just so you can pay for the diapers and the formula and pay the rent and utilities isn't really something that you want to do - but do it anyway.
Do it because you have a responsibility to that little child in that bucket. Do it because at some point she's going to look into your eyes and smile and say, "Daddy", and when that happens, your heart is going to melt.
She has to rely on you and her mommy, because there is no other option. Yes, moms have a responsibility in this too, but my belief system tells me that our society works better and safer when men stand up, step forward, and accept the responsibility for their families.
There are single moms out there right now who are working hard to support your children because you simply choose not to. There are grandparents out there who thought they were done raising kids; but they're raising yours, because you made decisions that you felt were more important than those children.
There are community volunteers who are buying your kids Christmas presents and school shoes; there are people who take their time to hand out food because there's no money to buy any.
So, as a new year dawns, my message is a simple one: look at that baby; and that baby's mother; and see more than a result of what you thought was a fun night.
That baby needs you. That mother needs you. But they need all of you, not just a part.
So, get up; go out; get a job; and take responsibility for your family.
Don't let your children sit on the floor of the local jail while their mommy talks to daddy through the TV.