Reunions are nice to see relatives you haven’t seen for a while and exchange talk about the success of your kids, your surgeries and exotic places you’ve been. They are better if you swap some dialogue about what else is going on in your communities and the world.. A niece of mine and I usually get around to talking about the public school systems. She taught in the Chicago area until retirement. We have different views on society. She feels you can never know what it’s like to be a person of color and /or poverty families unless you “walk in their shoes.” Good point, always. But then I’ll never know what it was like to walk in Ward Connerly’s shoes, Charles Barkley, Michael Jordan, the local Allen family, Ken Hinton, Martin Luther King, William Strawberry, Ophrah Winfrey, Bobby Humbles, Wayne McClain, Hersey Hawkins, Carl Cannon and millions of other people of color who most of the people in the community and the world look up to. I will also never know what it’s like to walk in Abraham Lincoln’s shoes, the Bush family, the Kennedy family or even my Mom and Dads shoes. My mom and dad were poor but they weren’t aware of it till it came time to pay the bills on the farm and paying the bills for nine kids. My recollections were there were always a series of financial struggles especially when the folks were faced with a farm drought like we are now experiencing. We all worked and never even thought of bankruptcy. And we always had enough to eat because we had both a garden and a truck patch. Drive the poorer parts of Peoria and look for gardens. I’ll give you two dollars for charity for every one you can find. Five dollars for every truck patch. Why garden when all these charitable places are handing out free food to anyone who comes to the door? No questions asked; gang bangers, “don’t give a d---ers”, free loaders, child molesters and honest people down on their luck. My observations are the latter are in the minority.
Anyway, a recent “letter to the Editors” by Henry Hein of Peoria pretty well sums up the way I feel about “walking in other peoples shoes.” Henry refers to a book by Charles Barkley entitled “Who’s afraid of a Big Black Man”? I now quote Henry because he is a wise man and states the truth as I see it. “The message of the book is that racism is a fact that has changed very slowly, but those suffering it should not give up on themselves because of it”. The successful people who are quoted in the book were mainly black and who said; get all the education you can; believe you can succeed; recognize doors have opened to you through the efforts of others who have gone before you; don’t dwell on blaming others for your difficulties; work hard and develop good habits; obey the laws, dress appropriately and learn to speak English correctly and clearly”. Henry goes on to say “This book should be required reading in our schools. It is inspiring and helpful. It tells us life is not easy (read Bill Gates) and for some it is more difficult than others, but doing the best we can is the most rational and helpful way to live”.
The old saying goes “you can lead the horse to the water, you cannot make him drink”. Perhaps the water is not to his likening; say the public school system. Then our job is to make the water (the public school system) more drinkable by offering and selling more vocational learning opportunities. Learning a vocation will show these kids that in order to make any kind of a living and raise a family they will need to learn to read and speak, write and express themselves and compute manually and electronically. Then enforce the truancy laws, remove kids from abusive situations, sexually, mentally and physically and increase the number of counselors in middle and high school and increase the size of our alternate schools. Bring in retirees to teach vocational skills and have an employee of the school district in the classroom to assist and enforce discipline.
Hanna City Youth Center has sat empty for years. Over a year ago I asked Dale Risinger to find the status of that building. I’m still waiting to hear from Dale but I forgot; Dale headed up the local IDOT before he went to Springfield. The Hanna City location would be a natural for vocational training from child care, animal husbandry, gardening, welding; body shop, electronics, carpentry; you name it. With all the free space needed from the State for probably just the cost of improvements and maintenance. There should be grants available. After all, if enhancements such as zoos and museums get millions for dollars in grants surely a project as worthy as this could get twice the money. Right? No, probably wrong, our priorities are out of sequence. Use the Hanna City site by #150 and offer space to all schools in bus driving distance. One school official outside of #150 has already shown an interest. Just corral and separate the gang bangers on the first day. Many of the “it’s not my fault I am like I am” will soon become the problem of the County Jail where more cells will need to added at an expense of approximately $25,000.00 per year per each. Which is cheaper, straighten out a kid or incarcerate him or her??
The need is there, the space is there but the will to even consider this possibility is lacking. First negative is “it’s too far away”. Is the prison at Pekin or Marion or Galesburg and Pontiac too far away?? Where do you think these truants and “don’t give a d---.” kids are going to wind up? At Caterpillar like in the old days? Think again. And no, they are not going to live on my welfare dollars if they have the ability to work and won’t. If they had the opportunity to learn and wouldn’t, no welfare dollars from me. Sorry.
Do I praise the efforts we are making in this community to not use racism and poverty as an excuse for failure? Of course, but I and most I know are not satisfied. We feel with our generosity, we are expanding a class who feel they will never need to work. Neither are the employers happy with the shortage of people who want to work and have learned basic skills. If they are not coming from our educational system, then we must open further the doors to all people from any country; people who will work, will learn; excluding those who do not have an explainable arrest record.. The day is fast approaching when other countries like India will be able to offer better paying jobs in their own countries. They will come here, study hard and take their knowledge back home and start businesses that will pay better and raise the standard of living in India. Then where will we get our workforce in the quantities and skills needed?? We have unfilled needs right now. It appears to be getting worse.
And then there is China who wants to buy a domestic oil company with 70% of the stock owned by the Chinese government. Where is Councilman Chuck Grayeb? But then oil and water don’t mix.
This article started because of family dialogue at the Widmer Family Reunion at Underwood Park in Normal. The shelter, playground, electricity, water, tennis courts, parking lot and ball diamond were all free. Compare with the run down condition of Glen Oak Park who charges $50 for shelter use. If you don’t think it still is the Glen Oak Park of past years I challenge you to look around. Count the patches of weeds, dead trees, trees that need trimming and the erosion on the south side of the lighted tennis courts. Well, what should I expect from a $44 million dollar PPD budget? Sorry I brought it up but I thought the $461.00 I paid in real estate taxes to the Park this year would give me at least a nice looking park.
No, I don’t know what it is like to walk in anyone’s shoes but my own. I can only imagine, but being who I am, I believe I’d do something about it and it would be legal and worthwhile.