A willful and wanton act results in life-changing consequences
How many times have we seen something happen that caused us to say, “Thank goodness nobody got killed”? We might not personally have been guilty of a willful and wanton act that led us to say such a thing, but we know darn well that young people — like that group of five teenagers on the overpass this week — often do things without taking the consequences into consideration.
As adults, we are supposed to think before we act. How many times have we told that to a child who was caught in the act of pulling a prank or preparing to put one of his stupid ideas into action. Sometimes we might have been a little late and the prank has already been pulled or the deed has already been done, so we try to instill the possible ramifications of doing such a thing into the mind of the child or the young person who still thinks like one.
Age is really not the main or only criterion for making poor decisions. Our prisons are filled with those who did not put any proper thought into what they were about to do before they acted. At 15 or 52, or at any other age, careless thinking and acting on such careless thoughts — or even worse yet, not putting any thought at all into one’s actions — can lead to consequences one had not at all considered.
Our prisons are filled with those who didn’t intend to pull the trigger, who didn’t really want to start that fight, who didn’t have any idea what they were getting into by going along with the gang (or group of their friends), and who would give anything to go back in time to not do what they did that resulted in someone’s death.
Whether it was something as “small” as hiding a friend’s bicycle so he would stay longer than the friend told him he would stay (perhaps causing his friend’s heavy-handed father to take it out on the son for disobeying, which always meant a beating with a strap or a stick, and this time caused the son to fall and hit his head, resulting in his unintended death), or as “big” a prank as throwing water-filled balloons off an overpass, in which case one of the balloons hit a driver, which caused him to lose control of his car and crash when one of the balloons hit his face, the results were the same — the death of a human being because of the wilful and wanton actions of some young person or child. Whether 10, 15, or 20, the thoughtless young persons who set the wheels in motion for each of those tragedies really needed the lesson of “think before you act” to help remind them to put the brakes on before pulling their “little pranks,” which both resulted in the loss of life.
In the above examples, neither one of those children playing those so-called pranks ever intended to cause anyone to die; neither one knew all the possible outcomes that could happen as a result of their deeds. How could the one know about the heavy-handed strict disciplinarian father who would not put up with any disobedience, let alone the ramifications of what could happen as a result of his friend’s father’s heavy-handed method of discipline? and how could the other one know that one of his “playful little balloon throws” would cause a driver to lose control of his car and crash, causing his death?
That is the very reason why we must learn to think before we act, and definitely teach our children — or anybody else’s children — to think before they act. Some actions seem so neutral that we don’t really give them a thought, but imagining possible outcomes will hopefully stop us from making a stupid move that will result in a very unintended and permanent outcome.
Friends that are inclined to play pranks on friends should probably learn more about their friends as to what kind of pranks might hurt them. One would never (we would all hope) push a friend into a pool or any other body of water if the one doing the pushing knew that his friend couldn’t swim or was deathly afraid of water. And if one knew that his friend or his friend’s mother was deathly afraid of snakes, one would never (we hope) put a snake in his friend’s school bag to be discovered at an unexpected time, causing a very unexpected reaction that might be more than one ever intended.
As a mother who raised four children, I know parenting is not an easy job, and one can’t possibly teach every single lesson a child might need; sometimes we notice after the fact that there seem to be whole sections of necessary child-raising that apparently do not even get addressed. For example, one of my children told me many years after he was grown that I had not taught him enough about how to get the most out of money. Not having been an investor myself, I came into money the simple and ordinary way: by working for pay, saving what I could, and perhaps earning interest (back in the day when one could earn a reasonable amount of interest). Another child felt I could have taught him a lot more about cooking, but since that could be remedied, as in better late than never, he has been brought well up to date on that subject.
But if I hadn’t spent much time on teaching those things that have served them well all these years, how can anyone know if lack of one of those lessons — such as “think before you act” — wouldn’t have led them astray to toss things off an overpass, causing irreparable damage — death — to a living being?
We all must be ready to address any issue that affects — or could affect — children or young people of today. We must be willing to fill in those gaps that leave such a young person without a lesson to fall back on. We need to observe the child’s behavior and see in which areas they need more help. Perhaps those five teenagers never really got a lesson about thinking before acting, or the lesson simply never took root, allowing them to carelessly and thoughtlessly decide tossing rocks off an overpass was a fun idea. Thinking before acting would at least have allowed them to realize that they could have caused a lot of financial damage to many cars, which would have caused a great deal of trouble for their parents, and possibly sent them off to some kind of “reform” school.
As it stands now, that “reform” school will likely be prison, since those five children, aged 15, 16 and 17, have been charged — as adults — with second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. Surprisingly enough, the last name of the one who actually threw (or dropped) the six-pound rock that smashed through a truck’s windshield and killed 32-year-old Kenneth White, was Anger.
Several drivers who were not physically injured did report having rocks or chunks of concrete hit their vehicles — something which “think before you act” would have prevented. One of those weighed 20 pounds.
Prank or not, the end result cannot be ignored: Pranks and stupid ideas can cause death.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.