Did you ever wonder what it was like when your parents or grandparents were kids or do you remember back-in-the-day? Were things very different?
When I was in first grade, the neighborhood bully used to chase me home. He was a couple years older. His name was Michael, and he was what my nightmares were made of. Every neighborhood has a Michael.
Every child has someone or thing that seems threatening: the dark, monsters in the closet, evil clowns, and other fanciful things.
Real dangers have always existed too. Drivers, who think stop signs are optional, speed through residential neighborhoods; bad storms creep up out of no where; and clumsiness and gullibility are just a part of being a kid. Children fall over, down, up, off and into things. Strangers with smiles and candy and possibly a lost puppy always seem believable. Accidents happen, and evil lurks. "The more things change, the more they remain the same." Yet something used to be different.
From my bus stop, I walked maybe a block, I turned right and I could see my home at the end of the street. When Michael (and his gang of devils on tiny bikes) chased me, I could run. I could run to so many places. While Michael was the sole villain of my first years of school, there were many heroes. Mrs. F. lived in front of my bus stop. If she was home, she would wave at me. I think she is the reason that someone on my street knew that I was coming. Mrs. O's house always smelled like apple-pie or chocolate chip cookies baking. I knew how to get into her yard. Mr. C. had no children. He had a dog named Fig, Fig was likeable; Old Mr, C. barked and growled at everyone. The plant lady had window boxes of flowers and hanging plants everywhere. I could get into her gate too. Mrs. L and "Uncle Bill" lived next to me. Mr. L. had been promoted to family status after he pushed me on a swing once. The list goes on.
I saw one or more of these characters every day. They did not sacrifice much time.
They did not spend any money. They did not pull me out of a burning building or wear a red cape and fly, but I knew if something went wrong, felt wrong, I could run to any one of them.
This was the difference: The good people, working together, ran that neighborhood.
Each person did whatever he or she could. These were only a few of the people who knew that it takes a village to raise a child. All of them believed that what happened to any child, even Michael, was absolutely their business.
My parents knew too. They knew the names of the neighborhood kids, where each one belonged, who was worrying about them or if they did not have such people for one reason or another. No child was alone. The eyes and the ears of the neighbors were ever-present. Kids had safe paths and safe havens.
It takes a village to raise a child. It always has. It always will.
Evil is still everywhere, and now it does not seem to hide. It is more vigilant, more devious, more determined, more advanced. If good people respond with apathy, our children will pay the price.
Children today face so much more than little mischief makers. They need more. They know more than any child should probably know.
People, everyday good people, feel helpless to remedy the problems and overwhelmed by their own daily routines, so instead of doing a little,
they throw up their hands, plow blindly straight ahead and do nothing. They think that all efforts are futile anyway. They forget to run their neighborhoods. They forget their own power.
Every good person can to do something: bark at a kid to "look both ways" or watch the school children as they go to and from school, maybe push a swing. It takes very little to become an indelible part of a child's happy memories. Your presence, simply standing there, reminds kids of the goodness that endures, the innocence of days gone by. Your presence can encourage a kid, prevent an accident and discourage a predator. What you do now will be remembered.
Heroes are not super humans who leap tall buildings in a single bound. They are just citizens who make sure children are aware that goodness exists. They are guardians and role models. They make sure that children have a childhood.
We are each other's business. The neighborhoods are ours. We share a responsibility to those more vulnerable, and we will leave a shared legacy to the next generations.
Please do think everything is beyond your control. You are not powerless. You are the safe corridor. You are the hope. Do not be what is missing.