Homer revels in its image as the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea and its reputation, as the bumper sticker goes, of being a "quaint drinking village with a fishing problem."
Recent incidents, however, paint a somewhat darker picture of this place we call home. Contrary to what many are fond of saying today, it is not all good.
Our character as a community is on the line as, collectively and individually, we determine how we will respond to reports of an incident at an underage drinking party last month. Troopers are investigating after receiving a report of harm from medical personnel. Official details are sketchy since the investigation continues; stories circulating about what happened range from extreme bullying to sexual assault.
While the dangers of alcohol are well known, it seems many of us — adults and teens alike — don't connect those dangers with our own drinking. A recent report released by the Homer Prevention Project makes some stark connections: 46 percent of Homer Police arrests involve alcohol and 47 percent of all assault cases reported to troopers involve alcohol. Among its goals, the Homer Prevention Project aims to reduce substance abuse and domestic violence.
If you've been horrified at what you've heard, there are several ways to become part of the solution. Three meetings in the next few days open the opportunity for a dialogue that leads to action to make Homer a healthier place for all of us:
• There's a parent meeting at 7 p.m. today at the Homer High School Mariner Theatre. Sgt. Jeremy Stone, head of the Anchor Point Alaska State Trooper Post, will attend, as will Homer High principal Dr. Allan Gee and school counselors.
• On Friday as part of ongoing work, there will be a MAPP community meeting on "Working Together to Improve Community Health." It's scheduled for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Friday in Room 202 of Pioneer Hall at the Kachemak Bay Campus. MAPP, or Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships, is working to improve the overall health of the community.
• On Monday at 5:45 p.m., South Peninsula Haven House will sponsor "Voices over violence: a dialogue for youth on creating a safer tomorrow." The forum for youth and their parents takes place in Room 201 of Pioneer Hall at KBC.
As the community grapples with its darker side, we hope it does so in the context of a bigger picture and not a single incident. It's known that the community has a problem with teen drinking, adult binge drinking and domestic violence. Let's tackle those issues to reduce the risk of harm to all of our children.
Let's model good health and healthy relationships. We can talk all we want to our kids, but we know that the lessons we show are the ones that are remembered. It's hard to tell teens not to drink, particularly when a large portion of adult social activities revolve around drinking.
Let's care for all victims of violence with respect; they should never be blamed for what's happened to them.
Finally, as officials investigate what happened in September, let's refrain from speculating and spreading rumors. Whatever happened, it's clear it shouldn't have. Let's make sure it doesn't happen again.