WILL YOU NOTICE ME IF I'M NOT A FAILURE?
by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie
Over the past few decades we have become experts in responding to the problems of society through crisis management and intervention. We now have excellent programs focusing on substance abuse, kids on the street, homelessness, domestic violence, difficult teenagers and many other problems facing our world.
No longer are these problems swept under the carpet. We have learned to confront issues head on, increase the level of awareness and learn the necessary strategies to deal with these challenges.
But amazingly, notwithstanding these developments and their positive impact, many of the challenges still seem to be present. Relationship dysfunction is widespread, the number of children at risk doesn't seem to be getting that much less, and substance abuse, addiction and violence are still at epidemic proportions.
What are we doing wrong?
Perhaps 'crisis response' is not enough. While it has significant success, it is not sufficient on its own to address these issues. Maybe we also need to do much more in the area of 'crisis prevention'. We need to invest more effort and resources to ensure that at least some of these challenges don't happen in the first place.
This indeed is starting to happen. Schools and educational institutions are introducing programs that increase education and awareness. But as a society we are still paying more attention to failure than success. A critical element of prevention is to develop a culture where we celebrate, honour invest in, and learn from those things that already work.
a)Sometimes teachers will put tremendous effort into difficult students while the average consistent child who does a good job goes unnoticed.
b)Principals will spend time coaching the failing teachers while we take the successful and effective ones for granted.
c)Communities will sometimes pour resources into substandard schools or departments that are in crisis, while the ones that are fully functional are expected to survive on the bare minimum.
d)Best sellers will tell stories of people who were down in the dumps and bounced back, rehabilitating themselves with resilience, strength and determination. But we rarely hear the stories of those who made it work from the start, without falling down into the dumps in the first place.
All of these efforts are necessary. But it's time to move to the next stage. It's time we developed ways of acknowledging and rewarding the regular student who just does the right thing. It's time we highlighted and learned from the achievements of the good hardworking teachers and the functional institutions, and invested in their development so that they can be role models for others. And I am so looking forward to seeing a book or documentary about people who got their relationships and other experiences right in the first place, so that we can understand the ingredients for success from the beginning.
We should continue to respond to crisis, and try to turn every failure into an opportunity. But we should also learn from success and never take it for granted.