Hart of the Matter

Column: The responsibility we have to one another

By Ethan Hartley
Posted 8/31/22

We all have made mistakes and, likely, have been the recipients of the grace of someone else to be able to look past them, or forgive them.

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Hart of the Matter

Column: The responsibility we have to one another


Today marks Overdose Awareness Day, and while it is a somber day of remembrance for too many thousands of families who have lost a loved one to addiction, it must also serve as a reminder to all of us that we have the ability to make a positive difference for those in our lives who may be struggling.

I am grateful to be a part of the Warren community, for this Town goes above and beyond to stamp out the stigma associated with substance use disorder and offer a helping hand to those who need it most.

Tonight will mark the second annual candlelight vigil that honors the memory of those who have been lost. But more than just look back on the painful memories associated with loss, the event serves as a beacon of hope for members of the community who may be searching for a way out of their darkest hour.

Addiction, in the past, was to be treated as a shameful secret — something that was indicative of an underlying character flaw that only beset those who were weak of mind, and lacking in common sense. In the years and decades since the systemic, insidious practice of overproduction and prescription of opioid medication began, we have thankfully come to understand that the truth is much less simple, and far more terrifying.

Anybody can become afflicted by this illness. Hardworking parents, teens with promising futures, upstanding members of society who are respected and highly accomplished. The rewiring of brain chemistry that occurs when an addictive chemical is repeatedly used does not discriminate between the brains of the highly educated, or the societally celebrated.

Events like tonight’s helps to drive us in the right direction, and we should be grateful to live in a place where everybody, from town officials, to the local police, to the religious leaders among us all preach the same message of getting people into assistive services rather than handcuffs.

Nobody should be thrown away as a lost cause.

Rev. Joseph Upton of St. Mary’s said it best when discussing tonight’s vigil.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that we’re all playing wounded,” he said. “We all have struggles and difficulties and challenges. The more we can be honest about it, the more we can help each other move forward and kind of play the game better.”

We all have our wounds. Internal, external, visible or otherwise — nobody makes it through life wholly undamaged. What matters is how you respond to those challenges, and being able to maintain a sense of empathy for your fellow human beings despite those challenges. We all have made mistakes and, likely, have been the recipients of the grace of someone else to be able to look past them, or forgive them.

Only through each of us doing our part, and exercising such empathy, will we see progress in this ongoing struggle.

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.