Fine or Jail?

Does this strike anyone else as being a little odd? On the way to work this morning, I was listening to the morning news and caught this little item about the increasing numbers of people arrested for “aggressive begging,” defined by the newscaster as out and out asking for money. Here’s the paradoxical part. The punishment for such behavior is either spending 30 days in jail or paying a $500 fine. I was thinking that the former might not necessarily be a bad thing; the mendicant would be warm, fed, sheltered, and free of the need to beg. The latter? Well, that just seems preposterous. How can a person pay a fine so high when he or she can’t even buy a hamburger from Wendy’s without assistance?

I could go on and on about this and related topics (trust me), but I won’t. However, if you get me started with a comment of your own, then….

Brown Eyed Beauty

Above the photograph of a beautiful Sudanese child on the front page of yesterday’s State newspaper are the words “Tragedy deepens.” Her brown eyes look at the camera with a tentative look not unlike the one I’ve seen on Brooke’s little face when she’s trying to figure something out.  Brooke is one of my precious granddaughters.

Both little girls are around two years old, but that’s where the similarity of their lives ends. Brooke has blue eyes, lives in America in a home with her parents and sister and brother, and has never even heard a gun being fired. She has food, shelter, and enough cute little Old Navy outfits to change her look for days. The child in the newspaper lives in a makeshift refugee camp set up by villagers forced from their homes because of ethnic violence raging in Darfur. She doesn’t appear to be wearing any clothes, much less the cute little color coordinated ones that hang in Brooke’s closet. She’ll be lucky to have something to eat tonight while Brooke’s mom is serving spaghetti. For half a second I wonder if she has baby shampoo, gentle soap, and warm water like Brooke has.

All that to say that the children in Darfur are breaking my heart. I remember once asking my parents what they thought about the Holocaust as it going on in Europe decades ago, and my mother said they really didn’t know much about it. They’d hear rumors from time to time, but the world was a different place then, and communication was slow.

What’s my excuse…and yours? Communication is amazingly fast. We know things as soon as they happen, and we all know about the genocide that is taking place in the Sudan where more than 400,000 people have been killed. Raping, murdering, and pillaging are common occurrences, and it’s reported that in the refugee camps of Chad women risk rape simply by foraging for firewood.  

Can anything be done to stop the madness? There’s to be a rally on the SC State House grounds at 2:00 this Saturday. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the horrors that are occurring at this very moment in Darfur. .For more information, go to www.dagsc.org.  The child on the front page of yesterday’s state is as innocent and deserving as my little granddaughter…and yours.

Salee Allawe vs. O.J.

It’s not that I don’t care about O.J. and his latest escapade. It’s just that other things are more important…like children for instance. Sometimes I think the world has gone absolutely mad.

Last week I read an article entitled “Helping Children Caught in a War Zone” in The State. Written by Tom Turnipseed, the author related a story of a little girl in Iraq who was innocently playing hopscotch with some family members and friends when U.S. jets fired missiles that killed her brother and cousin and took off both of her legs at the knee. She has a name, Salee Allawe.  In Mr. Turnipseed’s world, Salee and Madeline (his granddaughter) are one because Jesus loves the little children. They’re all “precious in his sight.”

Then there’s the Florida prosecutor arrested for his involvement in a sex sting. A respected community member and father, he traveled to Michigan with plans to molest a five-year-old little girl after communicating with an undercover sheriff’s detective posing as the girl’s mother. When arrested, he was carrying presents for the child including a doll and earrings. How sick is that? Does it make me feel better knowing that he tried to hang himself in jail or that his staff is saddened by the arrest? No.

Until this semester, I viewed “shaken baby syndrome” as a textbook term describing babies shaken by a caregiver frustrated by relentless crying. One of my students has greatly raised my level of awareness by describing her child’s symptoms. This really happens all around us! These children have a high mortality rate, and those who survive often have symptoms ranging from subtle neurological disorders to seizures.

O.J. is small potatoes compared to the children. What must the Prince of Peace think when He beholds these little ones and the adults who are charged with safeguarding them?

Grandmother’s Pink iPod

I don’t actually know a grandmother with a pink iPod, but I’m certain she is out there. In fact, I’m a grandmother who might just purchase one, especially after reading an interesting article in today’s The State newspaper (SC). What captured my attention was a photograph of a 90 year old senior holding her iPod and saying, “It’s so nice to punch a little button and get music.”

While many of them might still think of a blackberry as a cobbler ingredient, others know better. In fact, the number of Americans 65 and older using the Internet went up 160 percent from 2000 to 2007, according to a Pew Internet and American Life Project. They email family and friends, listen to music on iPods, conduct online research, write books, use digital cameras, play video games, shop, read blogs, produce home slide shows, and burn DVDs.  

What I LOVE about this article is that it reaffirms that growth, change, and development can happen at any stage of life, and as a person approaching the golden years, this is exciting. I’m hoping someone will respond to this posting with an instance of an older adult who has embraced technology in some way. Another question to consider might be how technology can change seniors’ lives.

Where was/is Dad?

Everyone is abuzz with talk about the woman in Hanahan, SC who left her small children in a hot car while she went to work. The children were later found dead in trash bags beneath their kitchen sink, bathed and dressed by their mother. Apparently, she was afraid to lose her job and had no one to help her with the care of her children. No one.

Caught in what psychologists call an avoidance/avoidance conflict, she chose work over the children. Or did she choose work because of the children? Since she was the only breadwinner, Shawn and Triniti depended on their mother for sustenance. I’m not condoning her actions by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just saying that I can sense the agonizing decision that she had to make, wistfully hoping that the children would be waiting for her when her workday was over.

This issue brings to light many social issues, one being deadbeat dads. Where was the father of these babies? Isn’t he responsible too? So many times fingers are pointed at the unfit, neglectful mother while the father of these little ones isn’t even mentioned. In our society, four of ten children are born to single mothers, and many people seem fine with that. Huh??? I just don’t get it. Call me old-fashioned, but I know from experience, observation, and tons of research that children fare better with both parents around to raise them, to tag team.

What are the answers? I don’t know. I’m thinking of the line of a hymn that asks, “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly?” Indeed, how many of us would have helped this young woman with her children that day or any day? Even as I write this, there are thousands of mothers and children who need us. What are we doing…that is, what are we doing besides talking about the issue?