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FIRST-PERSON: Listen to the voices

DURHAM, N.C. (BP)–Several months ago we received a contact from a bivocational pastor and his wife who had read the HomeLife cover feature we had authored in the magazine’s September 2001 issue. They were deeply concerned about their sons who had tasted the bitter fruits of drug abuse. The concerned parents wrote us a lengthy letter detailing all the agonizing events in each son’s history. Their deep frustration and pain had not killed their abiding love for their children, and they eagerly sought from us advice and encouragement, which we gladly dispensed. They were determined to rescue their errant loved ones from their own self-made hells on earth.

Recently the wife notified us that her husband had died in a motorcycle wreck near their home. The grieving mother remarked, “I can only hope that our boys will remember their dad’s compassion for them, and perhaps this tragedy will provide the impetus to lead them toward better lives.”

At least for these young men it was not too late. A caring mother was left to offer hope for a better life. And she and her deceased husband had been willing to listen to their wayward offspring. So many parents have cried out in agony to us about young men and women who have paid the ultimate price for their careless involvement in the drug scene. How many times we have heard them exclaim hopelessly, “Too late…. It’s too late!”

Not only are the cries of hurting parents loud and clear, but often the voices of the children reveal hidden truths. A bewildered little girl confided that her mother gave her tranquilizers without ever getting a prescription for the child. The words of the puzzled child were direct and simple, “What should I do?” Our advice to this youngster was to ask her mother to take her to a doctor to determine if she needed to take the medicine. But we could not help but wonder if our suggestion went unheeded.

A college student carefully reflected to her father, “Everyone in my school drinks, Daddy!” The knowledgeable parent tried to explain the errors of this assumption. But he failed temporarily to understand the full implication of his daughter’s words. She might well have said, “Everyone that I hang out with is drinking,” and, in addition, he soon was to discover that this was an announcement that the young lady was about to try alcohol herself. Fortunately she eventually discovered the fallacy of her direction and abandoned her newfound habit before it was too late.

A mother confided to us after a speaking engagement in a Texas church a few weeks ago, “My son has been taking Ritalin for about five years. I have worried constantly that I might be contributing to a future physical or psychological problem for my boy by allowing the process to continue. We listened carefully to your remarks about the potential harm that attention-deficit-disorder medications might cause. My son turned to me and confided, ‘I want to be normal, Mother. I want to get off of this stuff. I don’t really need it.’

“Those words were enough for me,” she exclaimed. “He won’t take it anymore! We will never forget your startling revelation that any medicine might produce the desired feeling for a while, but we must ask ourselves, ‘At what cost?’ Thank you for sharing the truth with us!”

Yes, words do ring loud and clear. The hurt runs deep across this land for parents and grandparents who struggle to find solutions for their loved ones’ drug-related difficulties. These significant others must not only share truths that they feel are essential for well-being among our young people, but they also must listen carefully to words that may indicate the cause of a problem and reveal the best path to relief. Often we accomplish more by listening than we ever could by talking.

Remember that our children trust in us to show them the better way by example and deed, and we must be careful that we do not contribute to the misery our children experience.
Stone and Barber, of Durham, N.C., are coauthors of two books on alcohol and drug abuse, “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Hurts” and “The Drug Tragedy — Hope for the One Who Cares,” both available from LifeWay Christian Stores.

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  • Ted G. Stone & Philip D. Barber