October was a bloody month in the Virgin Islands. Within one week we lived through FIVE MURDERS, which included two double murders, and several other non-fatal shootings. All of the victims were under the age of 40 and as young as 20. The entire territory FEELS the pain associated with those senseless acts of violence. We either were related to the victims, were friends with them, or know someone who was related to them or friends with them.
At the very least, all of us have questioned the safety of ourselves and our loved ones. Then there was a bank robbery and jewelry store robbery. And while violence makes all of us question our safety, we cannot overlook white-collar crime where corrupt officials swindle hundreds of thousands of dollars from government coffers. What is the Virgin Islands coming to? Are we to accept murders, shootings, and crimes as a regular part of our lives? Are we supposed to suspect that most government officials are power hungry, money hungry thieves?
I have started to seriously question my decision to live and raise a family in the Virgin Islands. It is no longer the community that I was raised in. It no longer provides the foundation that so many of us cherish. Just how do we return the Virgin Islands to the place that we so loved? It will be difficult.
Our education system is substandard and our children fall woefully behind in national statistics. The cost of living here is one of the highest in the nation, while salaries are among the lowest, which means that many adults must work more than one job. So children are left to raise themselves. Even grandma and grandpa aren’t at home anymore to help out– because they too are working. As the VI Police Department buys back guns and steps up patrols, successfully taking more guns off the streets – we see that gun crime is not decreasing. It’s clear that our boarders, ports, marinas and shores are left wide open to the infiltration of guns and drugs.
Fixing our education system, our economy and protecting our boarders sadly will take some time – because of course, politics is involved. But what we can do right now, is strengthen our families. The family is the building block of every society. Strong families make strong communities. Strong communities make strong nations. It is through the family structure that morals and values are imparted. And love is the nucleus of all families. Regardless of how many jobs we have, we must take time to raise our children; and if for some reason we can’t, we must ask for help.
Right now, ask yourself, “What can I do to make my family stronger.” If you don’t have the answer, ask your parents, members of the faith-based community – our simply ask someone whose family you look up to and admire. A few suggestions are to:
• Make your family your number one priority.
• Spend a set amount of time each day together as a family. That time may be eating breakfast or dinner together each day. Or doing daily devotions upon rising or before sleeping.
• Spend as set amount of time each week as a family. For example Friday nights could be family nights – to do something fun with the family.
• Regularly visit your children’s school. Remember that by law, government employees are allowed two hours per month, per child, for school visits.
• Talk to your family, but also listen. Communication goes both ways. • Lead by example.
• Take time to relax, reenergize and rejuvenate so that you don’t get burnt out.
• Most important, do everything with love.
Your family depends on it; and so does this community.