TERESA M. PELHAM, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
6:36 AM EDT, April 30, 2013
"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."
-- Mahatma Gandhi
I'm really not interested in reading another "How to Talk to Your Children About ..." articles, and I'm certainly not interested in writing one.
I don't want to find just the right words to explain to my freckle-faced son how sometimes people do bad things.
Living right between Boston and the World Trade Center, and just a few towns away from Sandy Hook, it would be easy to decide that bad guys are everywhere, and that we should live in a constant state of fear. Parents I know are questioning why they brought their children into this world.
And that, as they say, is letting the terrorists win.
I think what we need to remember is that there are way more good guys out there than bad guys. How about we focus on them and help our kids be more like those good guys —- the guys who run towards danger and donate blood and coach soccer teams and lend a hand when someone needs help?
At the time of the Boston Marathon bombings, my boys and I were at a veterinary hospital in Chattanooga, GA, bringing a stray mama dog and her eight puppies in to be spayed/neutered. We were down South with our good friends who foster dogs here in Connecticut after being rescued from bad situations.
We learned of the bombings through a Facebook post by a runner friend who wanted us all to know she was safe, despite having just stood in the spot where one of the bombs had exploded. "Something bad happened at the marathon," I told our group of rescuers —- two moms and four boys between the ages of 11 and 14. "Lisa's OK. That's all I know."
Because we had no access to television and because our days were busy, we watched exactly no television coverage of the events that unfolded over the next week. While the first bad guy led police in a chase and shootout, we cuddled and bathed puppies born in the woods behind an abandoned house in Georgia. While Boston was under lockdown, we delivered toothbrushes, soap, Double Stuff Oreos and $17 in allowance money to a homeless man we'd gotten to know.
I'm certainly not saying that the thing to do in times of tragedy is ignore the situation and leave our kids unaware. We'd have plenty of time to talk about what had happened on our way home. But for the time being, we were distracted by doing good. That's become the message I'm sharing with my kids during this latest attack on our sense of security: We outnumber the bad guys.
Kids feel empowered when they do something tangible to help others when the world is falling down around them. That last sentence sure sounds like something you'd hear a child psychologist say on the "Today Show''. We're all making this stuff up as we go along. But in my experience, it seems to be true. Some kids, like mine, felt better raising money for the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary than talking about feelings following the Newtown shootings.
At a Red Roof Inn in either Virginia or West Virginia (we were a little tired, as you might imagine) we met some unbelievably nice travelers who, instead of resting or keeping to themselves, pitched in and helped us corral the puppies and clean up messes. Maybe they, too, wanted to busy themselves with doing good.
But the helper who still stands out in our minds is an 8-year-old boy named Jayson. This little dude and his four siblings have almost nothing. They live at the motel with their young mother, who told us she has no contact with any of the children's three fathers, two of whom are in prison.
"Dogs like me," Jayson confidently told us. "Can I help?" In his worn pajamas, he climbed right into the puppy pen and cuddled these squishy little pups. When it was time to head in for the night (yes, we may have pushed the "Pet Friendly" policy a bit) Jayson helped us bring them all inside. He laughed with us and helped us when all eight puppies decided to poop in the hotel room in rapid succession. He appeared seconds after our door opened the next morning with a sense of purpose, and reluctantly left to go to school.
You don't need to drive eight puppies 941 miles in order to do good. Children can feel that same sense of outnumbering the bad guys by bringing a lonely neighbor some cookies or by cheering up a friend who has had a bad day.
From where I sit, I see no bad guys, but I see plenty of good ones.
Teresa M. Pelham is co-blogger for the Courant's "Mommy Minute" parenting blog. A freelance writer based in Farmington, Teresa is the author of "Roxy's Forever Home," a children's book benefiting dog rescue. Visit http://www.roxysforeverhome.com for more information.
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