Impact of an 8 year old

Saturday, yesterday, at noon, here in my peaceful little village in the middle of Ohio, a little boy was killed by a car.  We don’t know the details, yet, but they don’t matter.

We do know is his family was crossing the street.  A car driven by a sixty-something hit the entire family; all of them went to hospital.  As of this writing his is the only death.

The 12th of July should have been a memorable day for him because he probably got ice cream, saw the water falls, and probably enjoyed seeing many of the dogs and people walking about.  The village was different from his home in Virginia, and perhaps he would remember us as he grew into a young man, a man with a family, a career, and the possibility of helping humanity into the future.

The title of this essay is deliberately harsh, because the impact of that car has caused this little boy to impact my life, and through me, perhaps, some of you.  It’s my fervent hope that his life does not end with a short obituary and a few tears.  It’s my dream that events like this create a greater impact within ourselves, and our society.

I dream of a day when every tragedy causes us to pause, appreciate each other, and be thankful for the simple things in life.  I dream of a day when every tragedy becomes a new incentive to learn, and improve ourselves and our society.  And I dream of a day when tragedies like this are only known through ancient history.

We must be careful not to over-react.  Was the family paying attention and following the rules of the road?  Was the driver competent and was the car in proper working order.  If something did fail, what was it and how can we prevent such events like these in the future?

This little boy’s memories of our village have been erased.  But his memory becomes part of ours.  Even as I write this, I’m also reading about children whose memory is being erased in Syria, Gaza, Irag, Afghanistan, and other places.  Will our society ever grow to the point where those lives are also mourned?

Or will their impact be lost?



Funny Family Business

Anyone here know a family?  Did you come from one?  So did I.  Sometimes I wished I wasn’t, but overall it was a nice experience.  As a child there were many times I thought about running away and joining a circus, or the army, or any other family but mine.

Maybe you have your own family now.  How’s it going?  Mostly fun?  I sure hope so, because how much fun you have is up to you.

Here’s the rub, as far as studying behavior goes.  Your family is unique.  It’s an island almost all by itself.  Sure, you may visit a house of worship with other families, or belong to other such social groups, but most of the time it’s only your family.

All the rules and regulations that apply to behavior of groups have to apply to your family, too.  We don’t like to admit it, but a family is a very special kind of group.  In fact, we could argue that it’s one of the better inventions that evolution has thrown our way.

We need to learn all of these things so we can make a better family in the future.  The problem with evolution is that it’s just so darn slow!  If we wait for evolution to make a better family, it could take a million years.  Frankly, I don’t think we can afford the wait.

So, in order to learn better and faster, we should talk about things our families do.  But this is the funny part.  We don’t.  Almost everyone thinks that what happens in the family should stay in the family.  Shame things.  Hurt things.  Bad things.

This attitude does no one any good.  It protects the bad people, it tells the victims that they have no support, and it doesn’t allow any of us “do-gooders” to try and intervene or help.  My own extended family practices this form of self-inflicted pain, because my sister and her ex like to try and hurt each other by manipulating their children.  I see them suffer, and I know that their future happiness will suffer as well.  And I’m powerless to stop it.

Funny how that works.



Teaching neuroses

As I watch our daughter walk across the stage and accept her diploma, I can instantly see a backdrop filled with scenes from her childhood.  At two she sneaked up on me while I napped, and bit my nose!  At three she fell off a stool and her teeth went through her lower lip; I encouraged her to laugh instead of cry.  At four she went to Paris, barely making the plane because of the flu.  (Thank you Doctor Jeff!)  So on and so forth – so many little incidents that underlie the tapestry that becomes her life, her personality.

Throughout her mother and I have taught her our critical values: keeping a cool head, flexibility, non-judgmental, enjoying good food, foreign ways, and frugality.  We also taught her the importance of being a good citizen, but that’s for another day.

We didn’t teach her these in school, we taught her through daily example.  In each of the significant events of her past, we lived our values; and through living, passed them on to her.

Our daughter is grown, but we know of others.  One friend has a beautiful daughter who is being taught values that we know, as adults, will cause her great pain.  Her mother is smart, beautiful, has a voice like an angel, and is a good friend.  She also knows that her neuroses regarding time, cleanliness, and order, are damaging to herself.  But we don’t know if she knows that she is now passing these same neuroses onto her daughter.

Yes, we’ve tried to say something.  Yes, we have tried to set a good example.  Yet each time the “intervention” has ended very badly.

At the tender age of four, our little friend greeted my wife at the door with “You’re late!”  I have seen our tiny friend take great care to make sure her things are in the proper order when she’s done with them.  I suggest that she doesn’t have to do these things, yet she does.

The reason she does these things is that she loves her mother, without question, with only the purest sort of love that a child can feel for a parent.  And she knows that her mother’s love is contingent on order, on timeliness, and other things we can only guess.  The mother is in the process of creating a young woman who will have to try and conquer many of the same fears as she.  Extra challenges in a world already full of challenge.

Will the day ever come when parents are so understanding of their own behavior that they can choose not to pass on their own neuroses?


Hate. Part 3.

Are you angry? What does it take to make you angry, Gentle Reader? Not so angry as to hurt someone. Angry enough to want to change the direction of humanity?

Will it take your loss of income? How about the loss of some of your civil rights? Perhaps they aren’t tangible enough to inspire you. What about the fate of a child who is not yet born? Or the death of a foreign child? What about the death of my child? Or will it take the death of your child?

If you were Trayvon Martin’s father, how angry would you be right now? [1] Would you be angry at Zimmerman? Would you want to hurt him? Would you be angry at neighborhood watch programs and want to stop them? Would you be angry at the gun lobby that allows self-appointed vigilantes to roam with insufficient training or background checks? Would you work to make them illegal? Or would you work to hold them to higher standards? Would you be angry enough to appeal the court ruling within the justice system? Or would you be so angry as to want to change the justice system itself?

How angry would you be? Think about it and answer yourself. It’s important that you know how angry you can become before you read the next paragraph.

Now that you know how angry you are, being the parent of a murdered child who died for no reason, ask yourself this; How far removed can you become and still be angry? For instance, you are now the aunt of young Trayvon Martin. How angry are you now? Next, you’re a family friend. Now, how angry are you? Next, you’re a neighbor, several streets away. Finally, you are yourself, reading about events so far removed that they could be fictional. Can you still be angry?

How I wish that you would be angry. Not violence angry, but angry enough to want to change the world. Angry enough to want a better future for all children. Angry enough to question the why and how of everything we think and do. Finally, angry enough so that you read these words, consider the import of these ideas in pages to come, and incorporate them into your own life. Only by doing this in some small way can you influence the course of humanity’s future. And it’s only if enough of us join together that we will make a difference.

Oh, how tolerant and accepting you must be, for I am angry all the time. My anger is expressed in words, in grand philosophical concepts designed to preserve humanity. How do you express your anger? What does it take to make you angry? You know hate exists in the world. Do you tacitly accept it as inevitable and move on?

Gentle Reader, I want to energize you. Not only to read these words but adopt their intent and help move our world away from hate. What does it take to make you so angry that you take action? Action enough to voice dissatisfaction with injustice, ineptitude, or laziness? Action enough to right a wrong. Action enough to change the world.

It all begins with you. Are you angry?