By Susan Cox
I recently saw a post on Facebook discussing if people who overdose should be revived. Varying views were presented, but I was disheartened by comments that conveyed the message that drug addicts aren’t worth saving because they chose to take drugs.
Everyone is worth saving. We all have value, even if we make poor choices at times.
Demonizing drug addicts and seeing them as bad people is easy to do, but does that view of addicts help them or improve the drug problem? In one of my classes, we study the drug addiction issue and what can be done to improve the situation. One article discusses a center in Canada that focuses on harm reduction. Drug users are not viewed as criminals and can, under medical supervision, inject themselves with illegal drugs they have brought with them. This may seem counterintuitive to helping people stop using drugs, but a study showed that 30 percent more clients of this center enter a detox program than those who fend for themselves on the streets.
Additionally, another study found that case workers who were respectful, patient and empathetic helped drug users stay motivated to change. Recovery from drug addiction can take a long time, so maintaining this supportive view of addicts is important. In both of these situations, drug users are treated as people with worth, which helps them change their situations.
I realize that a more compassionate view of drug addicts is not going to solve all of the current drug issues, but I think it can help. Everyone deserves to feel valued and be treated with compassion no matter their situation. Additionally, feeling valued may prevent people from starting to take drugs. Drug use is often a symptom of other underlying issues. Considering others’ challenges can help us understand the choices they make.
The movie “Wonder” presents the difficulties several characters face to help us view their choices in a more compassionate way. The main character of the movie is Auggie, a boy with facial deformities who is starting middle school after being home schooled. Auggie’s challenge of being accepted and not viewed as a freak is easy to understand. However, it is harder to understand why Auggie’s sister Via seems distant, why Via’s best friend won’t talk to her anymore, or why Auggie’s new friend Jack says hurtful things about Auggie to others until we see life from their points of view. Without seeing these other perspectives, it is easy to view these characters as selfish, uncaring and bad people. We don’t always know what challenges others have, so we need to withhold judgment and treat everyone with respect.
“Wonder” has a happy ending, but those who feel rejected or mistreated often react to their pain by hurting others. Many of the school shooters were just such people. Hoping to prevent future shootings, Ryan Petty, the father of one of the Parkland, Florida, shooting victims, urged students to walk up to other students who seemed lonely or isolated, or those who have different views, and get to know them instead of ignoring or judging them.
Increasing compassion for others will not solve the whole shooting problem, and Petty has also advocated for enhancing school safety, keeping guns away from those who pose a risk to themselves and others, and improving access to mental health care. However, accepting and valuing everyone is a piece of the solution that needs to continue to be addressed.
We all have challenges, and at times make poor choices, but we all have worth. Extending compassion and respect to everyone will help us all recognize our worth, so think about how you view and treat others. Follow Petty’s suggestion and walk up to someone you might avoid and get to know them. Both of your lives will be enriched and the world will be a more accepting place.
Susan Cox is one of The Republic’s community columnists, and all opinions expressed are those of the writer. She is a mother, an adjunct instructor of English at Ivy Tech Community College-Columbus and a substitute teacher for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.