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33 OCTOBER 2001
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from the soapbox

The last “normal" day and no more “Ms Know-It-All"

Karen vanderVen

The reality of it is that my October column is due. But, how can I write about my favorite “Soapbox" topics that I feel so sure about ?

The day was dazzlingly sunny with a cloudless blue sky. The air was clean and sweet with just a little nip in the air “a precursor of fall. You didn’t notice, as daily traffic whished by and the noise level was punctuated by an occasional bus, that there were no planes in the sky. Informally dressed, people hurried along the sidewalk, carrying books and packages. There were small groups of people chatting, sombre expressions occasionally relieved by a little smile. Folks were going in and out of stores. Just another “normal" day with people going about their business and their lives “or so it seemed on the surface.

What day was this ? Not September 10, the “day before" September 11, but the day after. As I chatted with various people throughout the day, like everybody else, I would advance my interpretations about what had happened, how it happened, and what might happen in the future. I would say, “It is today that is our last “normal” day." Why ? Because in our shock we had nothing else to do but continue our daily routines, the best we could, as we usually do, and derive the small pleasures of our purposefulness as we went along, even though we all implicitly and quietly struggled with our knowledge that these things suddenly were meaningless against the context of what had happened. I’d suggest that the “ripple" or “domino" effects as they have been called, with one change or occurrence affecting another on to eternity, had yet to surface. But having said these things I would shrug helplessly, hunching my shoulders and flinging my palms out and say, “But what do I know ?" or “Of course, I really wouldn’t know" “and mean it.

One thing I sense now, along with many others, is that the world will be very different in the future in ways we can only ponder upon, and with little certainty at that. It could be a time that the values we have created and espoused in child and youth work, towards caring and relationships, will be needed more than ever.

As we struggle back again towards involvement with our everyday concerns, I will continue with my “Soapbox" perspectives on those topics I am most committed to, and perhaps at times will sound certain about them:

... that we need to eliminate point systems and practices which that over-control and dehumanize children and youth

... that we need to engage children and youth in more challenging activities as a way of conveying our respect and belief in their ability to develop

... that we need to parent parents before they can parent their children

... that business concepts and ideas from other fields can be imported to extend our thinking and to empower us in our work to create better systems and services for children, youth and families

... that if we don’t get many, many others involved in this field, its future prospects will be compromised

... that it is the service, not the age and category group, which is key and that we should work towards making “care work" a life span field.

Other “convictions" about child and youth work come to mind as well and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

Nobody who goes through life taking a stand for something and pushing for it as I tend to do escapes creating disagreement and anger. So once in such a situation I was called a “Know -It -All" and I suppose I did think I knew all about the issues and how they should be addressed. But when it comes to the future that will evolve in unanticipated and unpredictable ways in the wake of “the last normal day", there is no more “Ms. Know-It-All".

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