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We can’t let idle hands happen

Youth need jobs, hope for future so there will be no more Christopher Lanes or Delbert Beltons

By Todd Humber

A couple of news stories from south of the border have shaken my faith in humanity a little bit.

The first was the killing of Christopher Lane, a 22-year-old Australian college student who was in the United States on a baseball scholarship. Lane was out jogging in Duncan, Okla., when he was gunned down by three teenagers, who chose him at random and apparently did it because they were bored and were looking for something fun to do before the summer ended and they returned to school.

The second was the murder of Delbert Belton, an 88-year-old Second World War veteran who was beaten to death by two teenagers in Spokane, Wash., in an apparent robbery attempt.

Belton’s murder hit home because my grandfather served in the Second World War. If I can step outside my column to brag about him a bit, his name was Joe Hart and he served as wireless radio operator with the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in Sicily, Italy and throughout Europe.

He passed away a few years ago, peacefully, but the thought of him meeting his end through violence because a couple of kids — who have done absolutely nothing with their lives — were bored really bothers me. Heroes shouldn’t be killed by punks.

It reminds me of a time when, as a teenager, my best friend’s dad cancelled his daily newspaper subscription because he was sick of coming home after a long day’s work and reading page after page of the bad deeds going on in the city and around the world. I didn’t understand that decision then, but it’s starting to make sense now.

Random, senseless violence by youth is an HR story. That’s because the unemployment rate for young Canadians is high, too high, and there can be long-term societal ramifications. Idle hands, after all, are the devil’s workshop.

We all know plenty of young people who can’t find jobs — either summer jobs to help them save for tuition or that all important first job out of university or college.

It’s demoralizing, and the slump has been going on long enough now that some young Canadians are becoming disenfranchised. If they have no hope for tomorrow, then what does it really matter what they do today?

I never had much time as a teenager to be idle. Between going to scout meetings, playing sports and working part-time jobs after school, it never occurred to me to be a punk, to do harm to others for fun or simply because I was bored.

It’s a mystery as to why these killers acted out, why they thought ending a life was appropriate — either for kicks or because they wanted to steal something. It goes beyond the mandate of an HR publication to figure it out, but we can say one thing with certainty: Hope for the future can nullify some of this nonsense. Having a job, because it’s so large a part of a person’s identity, can provide a feeling that the long-term picture looks bright.

Todd Humber is the managing editor of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. He can be reached at or visit for more information.

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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