Link to new Brother 1965 story:
MY RESPONSE TO MY BROTHER’S STORY:
This reminds me of a time maybe 25 years ago when I was shopping in a small local grocery store in the northern Minnesota town I then lived in. I had intuitively noticed something happening like a drama between a man, a woman and a small boy of about 4 years old. I had seen the three of them in the store together earlier, only now as I passed through the checkout line I noticed the mother was against the store wall to my right, the father was standing near the exit door to my left, and the little boy was walking around alone with his little arms wrapped around a large blue plastic ball.
At first as I watched him I thought he had ‘lost’ his parents as he moved back and forth between the ends of the isles and end of the lines of people at the check out. But as I watched I soon understood I was watching an entirely different kind of story unfold.
I moved through the line, paid for my groceries and was leaving when I noticed the mother still inside the store, the father holding the door open, the mother was giving hand signals to the little boy. At the perfect moment he ran out the door, the mother slowly followed him after a count of 5 seconds, and the family reunited and meandered across the parking lot to their car.
I swear I stood inside that store with my mouth open dumbly, not believing what I had just witnessed. Those parents had brought their child into that store for the direct purpose of teaching him how to steal. I awoke from my trance and yelled at the cashier closest to me, “Those people just stole that ball,” as I pointed out the front window.
No, they knew that ball hadn’t been paid for, and out the door after them raced the store manager. I don’t know what happened next but those people didn’t get away with their ball this time. How many times previously had those parents given that boy their lessons? How many times afterward? Did the ‘getting caught’ part create any break or intervention that might help that little boy understand there’s nothing good about stealing? Or did they all become just that more determined to learn to steal better?
I don’t know, but it was an eye opener for me. I wondered what chance of a good life does a child like that have if that is how his life is at the beginning?
I know that if I were faced today with a scene such as you are describing I would at least take down that man’s license plate number and call 911, describing to the police exactly what I had witnessed. Unfortunately the system itself is not what it could be, but it is the best that we have.
Very disturbingly research is now showing that for all the efforts being made to stop physical assault against children, the effects of a child’s exposure to VERBAL abuse alone can cause more long term harm to a child than does any other single form of abuse — and the physical marks don’t show.
We need to know what we are looking at when we see these wounded children. There might be times that we can look into their eyes, times when we might be able to say a word to them, spend time getting to know them in some safe way, some way to let them know as soon as they are old enough that they can report to adults themselves what is hurting them out of sight of others.
Of course there is controversy about the ‘correctness’ and stringency of laws against abusing children. But if we think about it logically, would we ever say it would be OK not to have any laws against killing other people because, who knows, sometimes the dead person deserved to die?