Sunday, November 13, 2005


So, it has been a disturbing week in the news.

First, this.

Then there's this.

There's also this.

And a million other cases reminding us that somehow, as a society, we are failing our children.

I didn't go to church this morning. I called in to let them know I wouldn't be able to teach Sunday School, and then I spent the morning with my husband and kids. All these stories, paired with some things going on in our own lives, pinned me against the wall of my fears, full-force, and reminded me of how fragile and vulnerable childhood really is, and I just wanted to be with my kids.

I watched Born Into Brothels the other night. What a beautiful documentary. It's about a group of children born to prostitutes living and working in a brothel in Calcutta. A photographer shooting the women of the brothel discovered the children's natural curiosity about her camera, and this documentary portrays the photography class she began for the kids, and her efforts to help them attain better lives. These children live in brothels where they have to go play on the roof "when mom has to work in our room," where they hear words thrown about that I didn't even use back in my cuss-like-a-sailor wild child days, and where severe drug abuse is witnessed daily. The boys have nothing in life to look forward to, and the girls are expected to join "the line" once they pass puberty. And they're beautiful, warm, outgoing kids, really, in spite of it all.

It's so easy to see that stuff as so far away, so alien to our culture. We think, "We're Americans. We don't put kids into those situations. We have safeguards in place to protect our children." And then we walk off, smug, as if our Western culture is all the moral compass we need. As far as I'm concerned, we just do a better job of hiding it. The few friends I had growing up who had the healthy dinner-together, talk-about-our-feelings, nobody-has-been-abused, june-and-ward-cleaver kinds of families admitted, with a great deal of awkwardness and isolation, that their families were "functional." Of the 6 closest female friends I've ever had, 4 (that I know of) have been raped, abused, or molested. I teach our Wednesday night kindergarten girls' class at church, and often receive prayer requests that open windows into those girls' lives that, frankly, I'm not sure I want to look through. It is heartbreaking, what we allow our children to experience, and terrifying to the heart of a parent.

I have three of the most beautiful children, so precious, so sweet, and so innocent. To think of someone taking away that innocence, violating their childhood, or exposing them to realities much harsher than I want them aware of at 9, 5, and 4 years old-- well, that just tears apart everything I dream of as a mother. I can't be with them all the time, and I can't protect them from everything the world has to foist upon them. I can't keep them isolated from everyone and everything that could possibly hurt them-- I know this. I don't want to leave them paralyzed by their own fear of the world, but I don't want to leave them clueless, either. Where's the balance?

I'm not naive. I don't believe that we live in the first generation to experience these kinds of horrors. I understand that we are blessed to live in a society that has put into place guidelines, laws, and practices to try to protect children. It's just a shame upon human nature that we even need laws and guidelines to tell us that children are our most precious resource, not to be squandered, abused, or thrown into a sink-or-swim culture too soon, too completely. We have to learn something from all the things that keep happening, and we have to find a way, for our nation and our world, to stop them from happening. No small task....

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