Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Sense of Safety

I remember calling my dad one day and in the middle of the conversation he got quiet.  I heard him take in a breath and realized he was crying.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's that child, Jessica.  The thought of her buried alive," he said between sobs.

Since the December shootings at Sandy Hook, I've shed a few tears for children I didn't know too. The tornado this week, which killed nine school children, brings back the same image of children huddling in their classrooms and hallways in fear. Also in the recent news is the child who along with her mother and two other women lived a "Room"-like existence.  And the man on trial for the rape and murder of the five-year-old child whose mother sold her to him.

Except for the times I worried about my dad's temper (and snakes and Cuban missiles), I felt safe as a child. I cannot imagine, unless they are completely sheltered from the news, how children today can feel such a sense of things being okay. And as much as I'd like it to be different, events and circumstances that are scary for children aren't going away.

So what can we do?

We can't change the weather, but we can be grateful for compassionate, quick-thinking teachers who saved many children during both the Sandy Hook shooting and the Moore tornado.  We can't be aware of every abusive situation a child finds him- or herself in but we can, as a community, provide and financially support mental health services for families in crisis.  We can thank school counselors, who talk to children and find ways to get them outside assistance and help them help themselves.  We can if at all possible shelter children from the news and violence that is in the media.  When we can't shelter them, we can educate ourselves about how to talk with them about their fears.

Several months of work are coming to fruition this Tuesday, May 28, at Quail Ridge Books and Music.  We have assembled a panel of experts - David Crabtree from WRAL-TV representing the media, Representative David Price, and Dr. Assad Meymandi who will speak for the mental health community, to address some of the causes of violence and how we the public can bring about change. I hope you will join us. Clay Stalnaker and I will moderate.

The impetus for putting this program together was the Sandy Hook incident. But I also want to help re-create a time and place when children felt safe in their schools, in their communities, in their homes.  They deserve this, and those of us with power - the adults - owe it to them to find ways to provide it.

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