By: Martianne Stanger
The other day, I heard a story which upset me so much that I am sharing it here:
A mom had to use the potty. At the same time, her young child did what many children do at one point or another – ran out of her house while Mom was otherwise occupied.
Of course, the mom quickly finished her bathroom business and ran out of her home calling to her child. Unfortunately, a passerby happened to see the child first, and, instead of doing what people in years gone by might have done – gently returning the child to her home and chatting with the mom to assess the truth of the situation– the passerby called the police.
Long story short: the police officer assessed the situation, did not feel it was an emergent one, but was still mandated to report on it. So, now, a perfectly normal child in a wonderfully loving home is sensing the stress of her family being held under an unnecessary microscope. And, another child, who may actually need help, is waiting on it as time, energy and resources are pointlessly directed toward corroborating what common sense and human compassion could have sussed out in the first place.
Honestly, if the passerby had taken a moment to direct the child back to where the child was coming from and to speak calmly and compassionately to the child’s mom, the truth would have been apparent: Mom was on the potty. Child discovered how to open the front door. Child ran out. Mom followed not long thereafter. Everyone was a bit frightened. Everyone is grateful the child is okay. Mom can now use energy reinforcing safety chats and, perhaps, putting a strategy in place to keep the child from repeating the developmentally appropriate exercise of testing new-found skills and pushing limits.
Who knows? Mom and the passerby may have even become friends, with a funny story to look back at and laugh about when asked how they met.
Instead, the passerby carries on with life as usual while the mom, child and their family become burdened with proving themselves innocent to a system snowballing out of control.
Now, I am not saying that the police and child protection services should never be called. I am, however, suggesting that before any of us fall prey to the prompts of fear and lack of personal connection which pervade in modern society, we pause. Take a breath. Look honestly at a situation. And – now imagine this – speak to each other.
Yes, smile and converse. Ask a question. Listen to an answer. Make a personal connection, even if only for a moment.
Stop assuming the worst in one another and let personal concern be just what it is – personal. Then, and only then, IF common sense screams, “Call!”, go ahead and call.
Truly, let the system do what it is supposed to do – help and protect when necessary, not just when it is more convenient to call the police than to take a moment to be human.
In honor of all the children out there who are gaining skills, testing limits and wanting to explore the world beyond their front doors, let’s make this world worth exploring. Let’s make it a place of community again. Let’s stop being a part of the insanity. Let’s go against today’s grain and let our first impulse be to reach out to a person instead of to a phone pad.
Indeed, please join me in a movement to turn the clocks back to a time when common sense reigned, people expected the best one another and the system stepped in only when necessary.
Today, make it a point to go talk to a neighbor today before there is even a need to do so. Smile at a stranger and ask how his or her day is or if you can help in some small way. Let your impulse be to love, not to accuse.
Sure, follow gut reactions if there is truly a situation that means you or another are in danger, but also be prudent enough to know the difference between when you can make a difference and when the system should.
Be a beacon, not an alarmist. Let light and neighborly love shine.