Blue lights are alarming to most adults, especially when they’re in the rearview mirror. But blue signals hope for children who have been abused. That was the message sent earlier this year when the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion lit up in blue.
The State Police’s child abuse hotline received more than 30,000 calls
in 2018, but that number is likely nowhere close to the whole story.
This past spring, all 100 Arkansas House members, and all 35 Senate members sponsored a resolution to make April 11 Children’s Advocacy Center Day in the state. Elizabeth Pulley, Executive Director of Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, welcomes the attention and appreciation for the tireless work of the 17 regional centers which comprise the state chapter. But in her heart, she knows there remains much work to do.
From her administrative offices in downtown Little Rock, an unassuming Pulley downplays her title and authority, instead expressing admiration and respect for the many employees who do the lion’s share of burden-bearing for children and families of abuse.
A lot can happen in just 24 hours. I’m going to be brutally honest and completely transparent about something I’m learning the hard way.
Last night my son graduated from high school. The past months have been filled with anticipation of this momentous occasion, but nothing about this was surprising. As I sat in a crowd of thousands, I was reminded that as a highly educated man, I take a lot of things for granted.
The reality is that from the time my children were born, I’ve never really even considered the possibility that they wouldn’t finish high school. It was always a given. It was merely the next in a series of accomplishments I expected to see fulfilled.
Consequently, I wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic as many others gathered at North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena. Sure, I took some pictures. And I applauded when appropriate. But for our family, this ceremony was simply a formality — something that has to happen in order to move to the next rung on the social ladder.
When Jackson started high school as a ninth-grader, there were around 700 in his class. Last night’s commencement was for around 500 graduates. You do the math. Was the ceremony a little rowdier than I’m accustomed to? Yes. Were there expletives shouted here and there? Yes. Did some of the attendees behave as though they’d never been to such an event before? Again, yes. And in the moment it frustrated me greatly.
Just 24 hours later though, I’m frustrated that I was frustrated. I’m sad that I somehow took a special occasion and made it about me — my values, my story, my preferences.
More than that, I’m heartbroken for the nearly 200 students we lost over the course of four years — many in their senior year. Why couldn’t they finish what they started? The easy narrative is to say they just didn’t care. But I don’t believe that, not for a minute.
I believe that what happened to them is the same thing that happens to thousands upon thousands of urban high school students all over America: poverty, unemployment, pregnancy, physical sickness, addiction, and mental illness. And maybe it wasn’t even something that happened to the students themselves. Just one of these issues in any given family can wreak havoc on the whole family system. How many families struggle with more than one of these issues at any given point in time?