The Cigarette Buyback Program
Since we're on the subject of teens and substance use and/or abuse, I have to remember to bring $200 worth of $10 bills with me to GA. A few years ago I did a Cigarette Buyback program with some kids in the hotel lobby of ... was it Long Beach? No. I think it was Nashville. I was just horrified by the fact that all these adult UUs were walking by smiling at the kids in that nervous, vacuous way privileged people smile at homeless people -- "Hi, homeless person, please don't kill me!" -- and saying absolutely not a word while the kids smoked their heads off.
Meanwhile, these are the same people who will simper on and on about youth empowerment and how grite our kids are, bla bla bla ad nauseum. Sure our youth are great when you can mooch a nostalgia buzz off them, but how about actually, you know, LOVING them? Like loving them enough to say "No way are you going to forego food and sleep and good hygiene for a week at GA and sit around hotel lobbies in stinky puppy piles giving UUs a bad rep and smoking your lungs black outside on the street. Also, you are going to wear shoes so you don't get some kind of intestinal worms and have to miss your entire sophomore year of high school. Now come with me because I'm buying you lunch and a pair of flip-flops."
Here's how the Cigarette Buyback Program works, by the way: you approach the kids, hang out with them for a bit, and say, "Tell you what. You give me your cigarettes and I'll give you ten bucks. The only catch is that you have to promise me you'll spend the money on lunch and not on more cigarettes. And you have to promise me you'll try really hard not to buy more of them while you're at GA. You can mooch them if you have to, but see how you do."
This usually works fine, and if you get the kids talking you might find out that they're not really even addicted to smoking yet. I'm thinking of developing some stickers or something for the C.B.B.P. so that people who are trying not to smoke could be identified. Any ideas? Maybe a Sharpie pen to mark their nametags?
Our youth don't need a bunch of fawning adults working out their own arrested development issues on them, they need adults to love them, to hang out with them not as a peer but as an adult friend they can lean on and rely on and trust as an ally and as an adult. Am I including enough italics here?
In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that this consumate adult spent the last fifteen minutes of coffee hour today playing catch the stuffed turtle with a five year old boy and three little girls under the age of 7. I also confess that I got them worked up into a band of screaming banshees, for which I profusely apologized to the few lingerers in the parish hall.
At least they weren't lying on the floor smoking, though. If I ever catch any of them smoking I will make them EAT that stuffed turtle.