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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: A deeper look for solutions called for in today’s turbulent times

I've been writing Thoughts from Dr. Joe for the better part of 15 years. I enjoy having a voice. Do you remember the assertion in the comedy, "Throw Momma from the Train" — that a writer writes, always? It's a good discipline. However, the best part of writing are the communiques I receive from readers who explain that because my column they are inclined to take the debate further.

This morning I received a note from Doug LeBlanc, a resident of our town. He was responding to last week's column, "Our kids need a code to live by." LeBlanc's note gave an excellent argument, that merely slapping a bandage on the ills of society has never been the solution. "Our problems do not lend themselves to quick fixes," he asserts. Life does not work like a light switch. Solutions take time, patience and introspection.

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LeBlanc addressed the importance of civic engagement, which we both concur is foundational to moral development. Yet our children are engrossed in a culture addicted to the whimsical pleasures of the moment.

Emerson wrote, "The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." Society needs to follow new gods.

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Regarding the recent gun violence in Florida, LeBlanc's contention is that many children such as the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, do not have the type of family environment that provides a strong moral compass in their lives. He contends the problem is generational. "Sadly, that can become a vicious cycle that is difficult to break."

LeBlanc offers a realistic perspective regarding the general lack of humanity by some: "We need to do a better job of emphasizing the importance of positive role modeling by parents. This is not enough because there will always be way too many kids who, for a variety of reasons, are deprived of that important touchstone for character building."

He asked, "What can we do to help those kids whose family circumstances do not allow for positive guidance in their lives?"

That's where we should begin our analysis, but on a level so deep that there wouldn't be light. Merely to say that more regulation solves the problem is absurd.

LeBlanc states, "the answer is not to harden our schools with extra, intrusive security paraphernalia."

I do not envision a world where future children attend a school where teachers are armed. What kind of world would that be? Such solutions demonstrate a finite rationale.

I believe that LeBlanc hits the nail on the head by contending that "one part of the solution is to soften the hearts of students, teachers, parents and the broader community so that we all feel compelled to reach out to troubled kids and help shine a light on a more constructive path for them to follow. To facilitate that requires investing in more school psychologists (full, not part time), providing training to the students, teachers and staff on red flag behavior by troubled kids, and perhaps conducting a school assembly occasionally that is focused on what we all can do to help one another navigate this turbulent thing called life."

I appreciate his views, but we need to be aware that there will always be evil in the world.

I'd like to share a famous quote by George Washington, from the book, "Being George Washington," by Glenn Beck: "Where are our men of abilities? Why do they not come forth to save the country?"

Well, I think they have — in the likes of Doug LeBlanc.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a retired professor of education and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at doctorjoe@ymail.com. Visit his website at doctorjoe.us.

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