A month ago Wendi let me know that K’s Jr. High School was offering a drug awareness lecture for parents and thought one of us should go. Because it was in the afternoon, only one of us could attend and the other would pick up N at school and greet the other kids when they came home from school. I thought it would be interesting to see how this is done in Japan, so I said I would be happy to go.
As I got to school, I saw a mother I know and asked her the way to the meeting. She pointed me to the gym. As I entered the door, I saw the whole school filing into the gym. Hmmmm. I realized that this was not a lecture for parents only, but rather an all-school assembly that parents were invited to attend. Got tons of stares and giggles, but after twenty-three years in Japan I ignore those. There are no bleachers in a Japanese gym (not enough space) so the 700-something kids sat on the floor, neatly in rows according to year and class, and the 10, or so, parents sat on chairs in the back.
The lecture was given by an officer from the local police department. They even had the ubiquitous poorly-acted movie (sorry, but why do they have to make it corny?) of a young woman whose fall into drug abuse eventually leads to suicide.
Here are my thoughts on what I observed.
They did a good job of providing information. For example, they shared the names of common drugs with kids so that if they hear them, or are offered them, they will know to avoid them. The most common drug being used here are stimulants, like ecstasy, but there is a wide variety. And sniffing paint thinner is still being done. The officer shared the biological effects of drugs on the body and brain. He shared about tobacco and alcohol being stepping stones to drugs and told the kids to obey the law and wait until they become adults at age twenty. He coached the kids on, “Just say no”. Overall, it was a fine presentation of information.
What was missing? To me, the officer never delved into why people turn to drugs (including tobacco and alcohol) in the first place. It is a matter of the heart. People, of all ages, desire acceptance and to be loved. They desire to know that they have value and that their life has meaning. They desire something other than a boring existence. When these things are not there, people look for ways to placate themselves. Sex, entertainment, drugs; it comes in all forms. It is just my opinion, but I believe people say ‘yes’ to drugs because there is an emptiness of the heart that they are looking to fill. For example, when kids cave to peer pressure (which is incredibly powerful), it is often because they crave acceptance. Acceptance by peers is important, no doubt. But when acceptance comes at the price of self-destructive behavior, it is because on a deep level, they have not experienced acceptance elsewhere. Usually it is not coming from their parents, so kids look elsewhere. They allow peers, grades, accomplishments, etc to define who they are.
As a follower of Jesus, I find my identity in who Christ says I am. I believe it is where we all need to find our identity. These Jr. High students need to know that they are loved, accepted and cherished for who they are. They need to have words of blessing, encouragement and truth spoken to them everyday so that they know who they are. Saying no to drugs starts with understanding your own self-worth, and I believe this is ultimately found in Christ. Yet, even if none of those kids were to believe in Jesus, it would not make them any less loved by him, and they need to understand their self-worth. I believe this is the answer not just to drugs, but also to finding self-worth in sex, bullying, over-achievement, extreme emphasis on test scores and a number of other dilemmas found in Japanese society. Without a strong foundation, lives quickly fall apart.
So, overall, it was a good lecture and provided good information. It missed the mark in ignoring the heart issues that lead to drug abuse. I wonder how much that relates to the fact that the majority of adults in this country regularly drink themselves to inebriation. The Japanese government owns the largest tobacco company. Japan is a massive consumer of porn. And students are taught, “please wait until you become an adult and then it is legal.” Where’s the love in that? Come on!