It Takes A Village

imagesI am a pediatric nurse who specializes in evaluating and treating children who have been suspected of being physically or sexually abused. I’ve been a nurse for the last 16 years, and at my current job for just under 11. Some say to me ‘working with abused children must be so hard’. Yes, I suppose it is, but I also have to admit that I’ve learned to keep a safe distance to be able to go home and sleep at night. When I say distance, I mean my heart.
This time of year, I feel more disturbed than I usually do. Disturbed at the hurt placed upon our most vulnerable children. Hurt from a slap, hit, shake, kick, slam. Hurt from being touched sexually. Hurt from being stuck in the middle of 2 grown ups (their parents) who should know better. Hurt from a parent who doesn’t believe their child. Hurt from insufficient housing, or no housing. Hurt from lack of education. Hurt from an angry parent. Hurt from dishonesty. Hurt from hunger. Hurt from disease. Hurt from an unwanted pregnancy. An unwanted child.
I think I feel sad at this time of year the most, simply because I, by contrast, am surrounded by joy. Quite honestly, I feel like many of these children don’t stand a chance. Why? Because of their environment. Because of those who were given the privilege of being their parent. Because of their failures. It is a cycle. A tough one to break too. How do you expect a child raised in an unhealthy environment to be any different than all they’ve known?
It is easy to get into the ‘whoa is me’ mode. Or the, ‘nothing will make a difference’ mode. What I have chosen to do- or the approach I have chosen to take- is to do what I can. When I have a chance to interact with families, I try and be a positive influence. When I have an appointment with a child who is living in less than ideal circumstances, I try and provide as much love and encouragement as possible, knowing that the hug I give them may be the only hug they’ve had in awhile. I choose to pray for them silently. This, however is my job. This, is what I am paid to do. This, is how I help my family pay my bills.
I was thinking about what the average person can do to help children in our community. What I can do, when I’m not at work. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with abused children. But remember that age old saying, “It takes a village?” I believe it does. This site is about keeping things personal. Not going about our daily lives, isolated from our neighbors, but getting involved. I want to be that parent, that adult who kids feel safe coming to. The house kids want to hang out at. I think it goes without saying that we all can be positive role models for our children, for our neighbor’s children. But, it does take some effort.
I happen to live in an amazing neighborhood where there are children exploding at the seams. We all seem to pitch in and help each other out. Play dates are a common occurrence, and children feel free to wander in and out of their friends’ homes, most likely with not a care in the world. What if, though, you had the opportunity to be a positive influence in a child’s life. What if a child walked through your doors with a heavy heart. Would you take the time to recognize it? In my job, it is easy. I know up front that I will be working with someone who needs help in one way or another. At home, it may not be so obvious. I may not take the time to recognize how I can affect a child’s life. Would you?
I encourage you to open your doors to our children, and be a positive influence in their lives. Did you know that having a positive adult figure in a child’s life is a huge protective factor for them? You may be helping in ways you don’t even know about. Take time to listen, to be around, to be present, to care. Your actions and words, what you do and don’t do, in front of a child may be just what they need.
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