Don’t mean to sound preachy, but ...
Her picture in the paper depicted her as a beautiful young lady. Bright eyes, cheerful countenance, a mischievous smile. Kirby was a good kid from a good, middle class family just like the families in our community. Her driver’s license was only four days old. She and about 40 other classmates from Shiloh High School in Gwinnett County were partying one Friday night several years ago. The midnight hour approached, and as she was rushing home to make curfew, she lost control of her mother’s car as she sped around a curve on a winding, hilly road. Her car slammed into an embankment and she was crushed in the wreckage. So was her future, and the hearts of every student she touched.
What a horrible way to get a wake-up call about the dangers of teenage drinking and the necessity of using good judgment. Speed kills. So does drinking and driving.
Someone supplied two “pony kegs” and two coolers filled with spiked “hunch punch” for the end of the summer party. When this came to light, at least 40 students between the ages of 15 and 19 faced misdemeanor charges for alcohol possession and faced the prospect of losing their driver’s license for six months. Worse than that, they lost a classmate.
I don’t mean to sound preachy, but, young people, there are some lessons here that need to be heard and heeded.
You can be guilty by association, whether you participate in the crime or not. Police charged everyone at the August party, whether they were caught drinking or not. When I read that account in the paper, the tape in my mind immediately rewound back to my teenage years and the concerned words of my mother. She was employed as a secretary to a social worker at the Youth Development Center in my hometown. She would come home with sad tales of young boys she had been in contact with that day. She never divulged confidential details, but she had a general repetitive theme.
So many of the young teens in that facility were not guilty of the crime, but were with the persons who committed the crime. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were running with the wrong crowd. They were not doing wrong, but got caught with those doing wrong. They were guilty by association. My mother pleaded with us boys, “Please be careful whom you hang around with and know what they’re doing. If it’s wrong, then leave immediately.”
Reminds me of Amos 5:14 (New Living Translation): “Do what is good and run from evil, that you may live!”
Keg parties are nothing new. They were having them when I came along. My friends held them on Friday nights and I felt peer pressure to attend, to be part of the crowd. It got to be a joke. I’d stop by the convenience store and pick up my six-pack of Coke. I’d show up and get ridiculed for being a “goody, goody,” but I had made a commitment not to drink. I rationalized my presence by saying I was setting a good example and showing you could have fun without the alcohol.
However, times have changed. You can get busted for underage drinking, even if you don’t take a sip. Only your presence is required.
Also, wear your seatbelt, whether you want to or not. Kirby had hooked her lap belt, but had slipped her shoulder harness behind her. When she hit the embankment, she was not protected from the impact. That seatbelt is there for a reason.
Finally, it’s better to be late and grounded than fast and dead. Plan to leave in time to meet curfew. If you get delayed, use good judgement and extreme care. Don’t drive too fast. You can tolerate the consequences of missing curfew, and you can deal with getting chewed out. But you can’t imagine the pain you would cause to your family and friends if something drastic and tragic happened to you because you were speeding home and had an accident. Use good sense. At least make a phone call.
Listening to myself, it’s amazing how much this advice sounds like my mother. Yet from this perspective, I think she knew what she was talking about after all.
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road, just past the department of drivers’ services building. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.]