Thursday, November 10, 2011

Childhood Safety

Yesterday, I stayed home from work due to laryngitis. Out of boredom, I watched too many hours of daytime television. In hindsight, I should have just turned off the television and opened a book or drafted blog posts. Beyond just coverage of the Penn State tragedy, it seemed that every show from soap operas, daytime talk shows, and movies on cable featured some kind of storyline about child abuse and its lingering impact into adulthood.

Beyond it being a depressing way to spend a sick day, it made me pause and think about the blessing of growing up in a home and world full of love and safety. Not every child is that lucky. My childhood was filled with loving, kind parents at home; professional, helpful teachers at school; and generous, respectful Catholic priests at church;. Not every child is so lucky.

But they should be.

Regardless of laws and reason, we have a moral obligation to protect children by ensuring and providing the safest environment we can for them. A safe place where they can learn how to love themselves and others. A safe place where they can mature into optimistic, hopeful adults. A safe place where they can seek help and support without facing recriminations and fear. Whether they are our children or someone else's, all children deserve childhoods with food, shelter and safety. It's up to us -- the grownups -- to be their champions and protectors against a world that at times is hurtful, painful and dangerous.

What an upside down world we live in. I wish those who are so passionate about protecting life that doesn't exist yet would extend that same passion, focus and commitment to improving and protecting the little lives who already walk among us. God knows there are children in foster care or juvenile justice systems, or still living in dangerous situations who could use that kind of advocacy and caring. Who speaks up for them? Who demands that the world pay attention to their plight and create a new and better world for them?

I do. Every day at work, I tell reporters and organizations that our children deserve more attention than what we give them. I love and treat with dignity and respect the children in my life and adopt them in my heart as my family. I refuse to be a Joe Paterno and do the bare minimum to protect children I know are being victimized. I refuse to be an accomplice to their traumatic childhood. Instead, I will be the safety net. I'll be the person that speaks up even though the price for speaking up may be costly. We all can. If I don't, if you don't, we deserve the horrible future ahead full of regret and guilt because we witnessed a crime we could have stopped or prevented if we had just said something.

The world's children deserve more than we've offered them. While children are resilient, there are some tests to the human spirit that are avoidable and unnecessary. Some kids survive these perilous childhoods. But there are others that flounder and don't make it. Or even worse, as adults, they become the night terror for another innocent child and the cycle of trauma begins again.

So, let's turn off the daytime television shows that tell us what we already know to be true -- children deserve to be surrounded by love and safety. Let's pay more attention to the world around us. Let's break the cycle. Let's offer them light and hope to break up the darkness encroaching their world. I'm in. How about you?

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