In each county in our circuit there is a nucleus of citizens who strive to improve their communities. You see these folks in civic clubs. They pop up in organizations like churches and schools.
I love to see them in action. They find a need and they address it. It’s the way good communities become great ones.
In Fayette County, I attended a roundtable discussion for one such group. It’s called AVPRIDE. Its mission is to reduce underage drinking.
The folks have done their homework. They calculate that underage drinking cost Georgians $1.4 billion in 2010 for medical care and lost wages. Their statistics suggest that the problem is worse in Fayette than it is across the rest of the state. For example, they found that while 34% of Georgia high school students had at least one drink in the last 30 days, the figure in Fayette was 57 percent. Nineteen percent of Georgia high school students reported binge drinking; in Fayette the number is 38 percent.
I’m not sure that the problem is worse in Fayette than elsewhere. It’s a serious issue everywhere. But, I applaud the group for addressing it.
They dug a little deeper. They wanted to know who supplies the alcohol to these kids. This is the disturbing part. Seventy-one percent of Peachtree City students and 59 percent of Fayetteville kids said that parents host the alcohol parties.
You see, in Georgia parents may lawfully allow their own children of any age to drink at home. So, many elect to host the party. They say, “My child is going to have access to alcohol anyway. This way I know that they are safe at home when they drink.”
Here’s the problem. It is illegal for these parents to provide alcohol to the other children who attend the party. And if a child drives away drunk and somebody is hurt or killed, the parents who hosted the party made that possible.
One of the police officers at the roundtable discussion said,“Too many parents are trying to be friends to their children. They’ve got plenty of friends. What they need is parents.”
I think he’s onto something. All of us know the temptation. There are so many parents that completely ignore their children that it seems praiseworthy to have a “cool” relationship with ours. However, if we take our roles as parents seriously, there are many examples of great parents we can emulate.
I stumbled across one this week. A young lady was coming home from college and her truck broke down near my house. I helped her move the truck out of traffic and then we waited for her parents to come help her.
Some people would go to pieces at a time like this. Stopping what you’re doing and incurring the cost and aggravation of calling a tow truck can be stressful. Nobody likes to have to pay for an unexpected car repair.
This young lady was calm. She knew that her parents would come. And she knew when they arrived, everything would be okay.
When they drove up, I could sense the bond they had with her. There was a mutual respect. They were parents.
That family is not alone. Our circuit is the home to many wonderful parents.
I just wish there were more of them.
Ballard is district attorney for the Griffin
Judicial District, which includes Fayette, Upson, Spalding and Pike counties.