Friday, February 09, 2007

"If you see something, say something"

It's nonstop excitement in my world as I tried to keep things together this week in preparation for a trip to California that I'd planned for a long time. For the next few days I'll be in intensive instructor training to teach child safety classes. This training is only offered once or twice a year, so even with all that is going on at home, everyone in my family supported me going.

I'll tell you more about this specific training after I complete it. Child self-defense is a longstanding interest of mine that grew largely out of my experiences teaching high school. The wonderful, intelligent teenagers I worked with were about to move away from home, but had never been taught personal safety skills, even though they lived in San Franscisco and endured harassment on the street every day. When it came to dating, the young women in my classes did not feel empowered to honestly tell a guy that they were not interested in dating him. They felt like they had to give confusing, sugar coated messages, "I'm not interested in a relationship right now...." that left the door open for later intrusion, in order to avoid hurting a guy's feelings.

To make a long story short, I realized that these teens should have been receiving safety and abuse prevention messages since they were kids, so in 2002 I developed a curriculum to teach these skills to parents, to enable them to teach these skills to ther children. Spark Seminars was born. I taught a number of seminars, which was a great experience, but unfortunately, it took much more time to get booking for the seminars than I had available for that task. I had created a marketing job for myself when I really wanted a teaching job. I put that business on the back burner for a while as I wrote Mojo Mom. But like all true interests, my plan to teach child safety is back, and now I have developed many of the community connections and marketing skills I need (not to mention more realistic expectations of what is involved) to be more effective this time around.

One of the most important principles in abuse prevention is to be able to speak up and ask for help when you need it. Social psychology has taught us that that's harder than you'd expect, which is why practice and training are important. When I was in Australia last year I was impressed by the signs on public transportation that stated, "If you see something, say something." That small reminder may be enough to prod people into taking individual action.

I had a frightening reminder of that principle yesterday. Flying to California, I changed planes in Chicago. When the pilots fired up the huge engines on our 777, thick yellow smoke came out. This happened twice in quick succession. It didn't look like steam or fog, it looked like real smoke that was associated with a real fire. It was one of those kind-of-confusing, what-just-happened moments. Was it because of the frigid weather? Was it something to do with de-icing? I decided that wasn't my call to make, but that I just had to report what I saw to the flight attendant. She called the pilots and they said everything was okay, that this was normal for starting up in 0 degree weather. They appreciated me telling them what I had seen.

I didn't panic, especially since we were still on the ground, but I did have that moment of wondering if we were going to have to evacuate the plane on the runway. The true terror would be to take off in a jumbo jet in a potentially unsafe situation. So, I'll say it again, IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING.

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