Running the Red

It was me. I was the idiot driver that you shook your head at a couple weeks ago.

My family and I were invited to a day at the pool and I was trying to plot out the route in my head. While carefully and strategically downloading my mental map, I drove straight through a red light. Emily almost passed out and the woman that was about to drive through the intersection honked her horn and gave me “the look”. I totally deserved that.

This was actually the second time in my life I did something like this. Once I drove right through a STOP sign. Teren and I had been over at Trav’s house till the sun came up the next morning. It was time to head home. Although no alcohol was consumed, sleep deprivation had me impaired. While driving Teren home my mind was fixed on our conversation, I went right through a normally busy intersection. Thankfully, it was very early in the morning so no one was around.

This is no lighthearted matter. Just the other day in Honolulu’s Chinatown, a woman was killed and two others injured when a car ran the red light and struck them.

In my situation, my eyes were fixed on the road, but my mind wasn’t. When we become preoccupied or unfocused we become unaware of the lights and signs that are warning us. These signs may be in the form of health symptoms, emotional distress, relationship issues and a variety of other things. We are on the go and our bodies, our brains, the people and circumstances around us are telling us to STOP. Without realizing it we just drive through the intersection. I thank the Lord for His protection that no one was hurt when I ran the red.  As it was in recent news, the outcome can be deadly.

We can look so far ahead that we don’t see what’s right in front of us. We may be under the influence of some intoxicating emotion or way of thinking and become impaired. More recently, people become distracted by cell phones and other things. Perhaps we might just not be in a condition to be moving forward and we have limited faculties. The road your are on may come in the form of relationships like marriage, family and friendships. Your journey could be your career or professional goals. Stopping before you move forward might save you from a tragic accident and allow you to safely arrive at your destination.

Pay attention to the signs in your life that might be telling you it’s time to stop. Take a pause. Take a minute to see the cars going in the opposite direction. Allow people to cross your path safely before you continue on your journey. Don’t run the red. -jason

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Unarmed and Dangerous

Since 2018 there have been too many reports of school shooting in this country. The exact number of school shootings is debatable based on the nature of how a school shooting is defined. Check out this link on Snopes. Regardless, one school shooting is one too many. No matter who you are and what you believe, this has to be heartbreaking.

Seems the most widely suggested solution is gun control. The collective voice of the media champions a loud cry for the government to establish laws on gun ownership in America. Whether or not gun control would be a good idea, I see problems in the  petition for gun control. The focus on government intervention.

It’s similar to the area of social services. These services can range from public welfare to Special Education in schools. The support from the government is a good thing, when appropriate. Unfortunately, there is little done about accountability for those who receive these services and people begin relying on the “system” and that is a problem.

Let’s consider special education. In 1993 a lawsuit was filed against the state of Hawaii for inadequate services for kids in special education. Through that the Felix Consent Decree was established and major reforms in special education came about. Today, the Department of Education is overwhelmed by lawsuits, fear based policy and reactionary operations because of the large number of families with children classified under special education. There are many who need the help and support, yet there are just as many, or more, taking advantage of the system.

As a Behavioral Health Specialist in the school system, I estimate 95% of the issues I deal with are family related. Of those, more than half rely on the system to “fix” their child. More than ever families are relying on the government to ensure their child’s success. That is just not realistic. The family is the most important factor in a child’s growth and development.

This is the need I see beyond gun control. Families working hard to raise their children. A society and culture that promotes strong parenting and family living. I have heard many arguments on gun control to Japan. They have strict gun laws and also close to zero gun violence. Sounds convincing. Then you consider, they send their elementary-aged children to commute to school alone, sometimes over several miles and over an hour commute. When I was growing up that may not have been so significant, but in today’s American society, that is appalling. So perhaps there is something deeper in Japanese culture that we need to explore.

Again, I am not making a suggestion for or against gun control. I am making a suggestion for us to make a culture change. Focus on family. Not your child’s vocational success or athletic aptitude, but their character. Let’s not focus on showering them with gifts or the latest trends, but with love. Do not forsake discipline, but do it compassionately. There is no perfect parent out there, but it’s hard to go wrong when you give it your best effort. We must not rely on the government to create a better world for us, we have to take action and do it ourselves. If we fall into a mindset of government to run our world, they WILL run our world. When we as families, come together, focus on a communal society and raise our children the best we can, the government will be what it’s supposed to be, a support for our society.

The way I see it, the problem is not that people are armed, but that our children are unarmed. They are unarmed with the love and protection, they are unarmed with life skills, they are unarmed with solid character, they are unarmed with compassion and empathy, they are unarmed to cope with the challenges of life because we have failed to arm them with these things. We have failed to offer the support within our families and within our community of human connection. Family, that’s where it starts, that’s where they get the training and equipment for life. We are failing them.

Our children are unarmed…and dangerous.  -jason

What’s In It For Me?

My transition back into the Department of Education has been, well, a little rough.

There could be many variables that have caused me to feel this way. One aspect of this job that I am learning and growing in is the age group. I have worked previously in two high schools and a middle school. Now in Elementary school, I am having to discover new strategies.

When I arrived, the previous Behavioral health Specialist had a store in place. Students could earn tokens to purchase items in the store. They earned tokens by achieving expected behavior. This is not a new concept for me. I have heard about this system used in homes and in schools all round the country for behavior modification. The reasoning is that incentives will give children/youth something to work toward so they will learn to modify their behavior to obtain the reward. This is a very common strategy used by behavioralist of various fields.

I’m not completely against this. I see how it is effective in some situations. The field of autism seems to have benefited greatly from the practice of token systems. Behavior modification has proved successful in this setting. In life in general there are some incentives that people work toward. In the restaurant business servers will put in the extra effort in expectation of a higher tip. Interestingly, when I worked at Alan Wong’s Restaurant tips were pooled. For many that was not a desirable system. No matter how hard you worked, you received a set percentage of all the tips collected. Some might expect that would cause servers to work less. Instead, the effect it had on the community of workers, was accountability. Co-workers will get on another worker that was not “pulling their weight” in the community.

An article that I came across highlighted the dangers of reward systems. It’s one opinion of many, but worth considering. The author suggests. “Priming kids to expect rewards for good behavior can harm their social skills in the long term.” The theory suggests that rewarding core social behaviors (responsibility, courtesy, respect) will build a mindset that will always leave them asking, “what’s in it for me?”

While I am not completely against reward and incentive systems, I believe we need to consider how it is implemented and what we might be teaching our youth. Something we are trying for our kids is to have them complete set chores with no payment, but just as a functioning member of our family. Once those are done, there may be other tasks that they can get paid for, but not until their set chores are complete. There are things you just have to do. Responsibility. On top of that, there can be incentive if you choose to put in the extra effort.

There is a shift in our society. There is a word that I hear floated around in many circles, “entitled”. With the practice of a reward for everything and for everything a reward, we can tend to produce entitled adults. Doing things just because it is the right thing to do becomes an exception. We are inspired by acts of kindness, because it is increasingly rare. Social norms are lost as we ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?” -jason

Casual Sex, Serious Consequences

My youth sexual education was mostly peer influenced. Ignorant conversations about sex with peers, pornography and even public media moving closer to pornographic imagery, these are the things that I was exposed to. The eighties had an uptick in movies like Casual Sex and Porky’s that painted a very loose picture of sex. In today’s movie scene we mock the 40-year-old virgin and are appalled in sitcoms with the character who has not had sex in a month. This is normal behavior in our societal standards. I am convinced this type of thinking strongly contributes to the sexual misconduct that is being uncovered recently. It may be casual sex, but there are serious consequences.

Admittedly this is not a parallel comparison, but it is interesting to me that when there is a deadly shooting many look to change in policy and overarching value shifts. It’s a community problem. When there is sexual deviancy, we don’t look at societal influence but focus solely on the individual. We need to, in all situations, look at both the part and the whole.

On an individual level we can look at biology. Men, we have all heard, have sex on their minds constantly. I’m not sure how that is measured and how valid some of those statistics are, but I did get some interesting information at a recent conference. The presenter was speaking on brain chemistry of boys and girls. She stated that boys experience a burst of dopamine at the anticipation of sex, greater than the actual act of sex. This is why pornography is a mega industry that will continue to find its way in the hands of adolescent boys everywhere. On an individual level, for men in particular, we must understand this propensity for irrational thoughts and action when it comes to the chemical effects of perceived sexual encounters.

On a larger scale, how do we address this information? I believe we need to reevaluate our societal views and values on sexuality. This is not a religious plea, it’s a plea for humanity. Our openness and loosening of moral principles in the area of sexuality are NEVER excuses for sexual deviancy, but we must not neglect the pathways we create.

In seminary we studied about Emperor Nero. Scary dude. One area that was discussed was his twisted sexual appetite that only grew over time. My theory: The anticipation of a sexual encounter fueled his desire for more and as the all powerful emperor of Rome, it required more perversion and extremely deviant behaviors to achieve that.

Fast forward to today. Sexual misconduct is being uncovered and exposed in many high profile people. We are appalled as a society and we should be. How could this happen? Well, look at the world we live in. A sexualized society of casual sexual encounters and we are normalizing this. High profile men who are absorbed by their power and status push the limits of that anticipatory pleasure seeking rush. It happens once. They want more. The Nero effect unfolds. It takes more and they push things further.

Sexuality is not the only value system that is weak and destructive to our society. Certainly there are many others. This one area of casual sex is threatening our society. Personally, I have seen how deceptively destructive it is to relationships. We must demand that the beautiful expression of sex be preserved in a committed, monogamous and loving relationship. The way we value sex directly impact how we value people and relationships. This is the fabric of community. There is absolutely NO excuse for sexual misconduct, but I urge you all to consider how casual sex has serious consequences.  -jason

 

Wea U Stay?

When I lived in California my ears would perk up when I heard someone speaking pidgin. Talking with friends over the phone would frighten some of my friends that aren’t from Hawaii, but it would transport me back to my island home. Often the conversation would begin with, “Wassup? Wea u stay?”

Even though I am back home pidgin still has the same effect on me. Seems pidgin is phasing out of our society because it is frowned upon so I don’t feel like I hear it as much. 

When I started this new job it felt a little weird. It’s not quite your place and you are stranger to everyone. One person made me feel welcomed. She is the custodian responsible for the building I am housed in. She is a sweet local woman that is always smiling and joyful and speaks some serious pidgin! There’s all kinds of pidgin, as some may not know. Her’s is this soft, warm pidgin, reminds me of the Uncle on Rap’s Hawaii feeding his chickens. Makes me feel at home.

What makes you feel at “home”? With so much going on in our lives we are running from place to place. We can sometimes be strangers in our own world and sometimes we just need to return “home”. Living in Hawaii I meet a lot of transient people. People are led to the islands through the military, employment opportunities or just adventure. Often I hear them mention that certain things remind them of home. When they catch the smell of a certain flower, taste a certain food, or hear a certain accent from back home, it’s like they are transported. You can see the escape to joy on their face.

No matter wea u stay, you might need to return “home” for a bit. Talk to a childhood friend, listen to a song that transports you to a happy time in the past, take a lunch break and eat something that reminds you of the good ol’ days. Wherever you are, take a break today and return “home”, if even just for a few minutes. Escape to that joy of home. -jason

 

 

Regular Maintenance

Most people hope to own a home someday. When we moved back to Hawaii the housing market left us feeling hopeless. We were fortunate that my parents offered to have us build our home on their property. It’s nice to have a place to call your own. Except for all the home maintenance things that pop up regularly!

Things you don’t think of, things you don’t see. One thing is piping issues. You don’t realize something is wrong until there are back ups and overflows. A few months ago I had to snake our kitchen drain pipes. Not fun. Last week I noticed the washer was leaking. I removed all the hosing from the inside of the washer and the drain tube was clogged with major build up. Disgusting. Then the kids bathroom sink was not draining well. When I pulled out the drain stopper I discovered a sticker and some tape along with a bunch of unrecognizable gunk. NASTY!

It’s around this time that the Lord was showing me that I was starting to overflow. The bitterness that had been building in my heart over the last few months over a particular situation was creating a clog and build up in my “heart pipes”. All the junk was not draining properly because of this one major blockage.

Immediately I turned to the Lord in repentance and shame for my wicked heart. It was overflowing into all areas of my life. The internalized bitterness was even having physical affects on me. I needed to “clean out” the bitterness that was blocking the flow of everything else. The words of David in the 51st psalm came to mind. When Nathan called him out on his sin with Bathsheba, David cries out to the Lord in repentance. Within this chapter of repentance comes the lines many are familiar with: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

If we are a temple of the living God, we must make sure we are conducting regular maintenance of the home which His Spirit dwells. The “heart pipes” get clogged easily by hate, resentment, jealousy, anger, bitterness and so much more. When we are not aware of it, we don’t process everything else very well, the good and bad. Then we overflow into the lives of others. Be sure to seek regular maintenance. Time in God’s Word, times of contemplative prayer, awareness of the Lord in all areas of life and trusting, intimate relationships with others, these are things that we can do on a regular basis for maintenance of our lives. -jason