As Edmonton was preparing to greet its first baby of 2009 and the start of a new life to be lived, the life of someone else’s baby was coming to an abrupt end in a pool of blood in the middle of 51st Avenue.

It’s a sign of the times that the first baby of the new year led that day’s news coverage. In Edmonton, the murder of an 18-year-old man isn’t front-page news anymore.

When I first learned of the murder of Steven Lee Mills, I might have just shaken my head and wondered what our city was coming to. But not in this case. I knew Steven.

Steven had been a guest in my home. He had slept under my roof. He had eaten my food. I had sometimes driven him home to make sure he arrived safely. Over the years, I watched Steven change from an obstreperous nine-year-old to a young man with issues and a child of his own. From the moment I met him, I knew that life was going to be tough on Steven. But I didn’t for one moment think he would become Edmonton’s last murder of 2008.

Steven wasn’t an angel. But neither was he a devil. He wasn’t a gang banger. He wasn’t a drug dealer. He wasn’t a career criminal. He was just a man/boy trying to make his way in the world. Though he was the architect of much of his misfortune, he did not deserve such an ignominious end.

The majority of this city’s homicides are about young men killing other young men. Add to that the endless stories of theft, vandalism, bullying and assaults and it’s clear many of our young men are failing us. But I believe that’s because we are failing many of them.

Men learn to be good men from good men. Too many boys are left to navigate the shoals of a challenging and complex world without good men to guide them. As a result, they look to solve their problems with fists, knives, guns and gangs. The police alone cannot change this. Schools alone cannot change this. Social services alone cannot change this. They need the help of good men to solve this problem. We need more men — fathers — uncles — brothers — neighbours — to step up to the plate and make a real difference.

That’s what good men do.

– Terence Harding is a corporate communicator and has been a radio and television talk show host, newspaper columnist, and radio commentator. He is a keen observer of all things Edmonton.

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