Learning the Hard Way

By Raymond Viger

I can remember an unorthodox intervention carried out while I was working with marginalized street kids. I helped a teenager become an adult. Let’s give him the fictional name Eric. He turned his life around. His criminal record dealt with, Eric no longer abused drugs.

I was in an alleyway with him when a young teen I was helping out came to join us. Let’s call him Charles. We talked about consuming illegal substances. Charles was practically boasting about his drug use. At that moment, Eric swatted him on the back of the head. Nothing that would have hurt too much. A slap to signify his strong disagreement. To seize and surprise. Looking Charles straight in the eye, Eric said:

“Listen, kid, try not to go down the same road I did. It’ll do you harm and nothing good will come of it in the end. Don’t try to imitate the kid that I was. Try to become the adult that I’ve become.”

Eric then searched him. He took Charles’ drugs and threw them in the sewer.

This life lesson, learned the hard way at a young age, had a very positive effect on Charles. He even became a youth social worker. Thanks to a good slap on the back of the head; one that a social worker like me could never have administered. But between two guys from the same milieu, in a back alley…

Between friends, if someone tells a stale joke that lacks respect for individuals, should I be content to fake a laugh? Witnessing this sort of rudeness and not saying anything is a way of implicitly agreeing with it. That makes me an accomplice.

The silent majority must take its place. It should denounce stupidities that nourish and cultivate racism, sexism and homophobia.   

Hey, big guy… your joke is bad and I don’t approve of it.  

– Grandpa, is that not sexist language?

– Your gutter humor isn’t funny. 

– Boss, is that really appropriate talk?

Confront friends, workplace colleagues, members of your own family. Denounce them. Show your true social colors. It’s not always easy, I’ll grant you. There can be consequences to your actions.

But education isn’t just a matter for the schools. It happens every day, in all milieus of our lives.

French version on the Reflet de Société website

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