My Concern For The Children, by Glenda Taylor
South Texas Border – U.S. Customs and Border Protection in 2014; Photo by Eddie Perez and US Dept. of Homeland Security, Public Domain.
When my third grandson was born with a critical heart defect, I entered the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where he was clinging to life, and I trembled to see his tiny form attached to so many machines, his life in such jeopardy. But my daughter, herself a pediatrician and well familiar with the perils we faced, stood there bravely, only hours after having given birth, nodding to me to go ahead and hold this tiny child, wires and all, for a few precious minutes. She knew I would do exactly what I did, pour into him then and in the following hours and days, all the love and life force I could muster.
“Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.” Wess Stafford, President Emeritus of Compassion International
I was not the only one. Neighbors came, though my daughter’s family was new to that neighborhood, to sit in the waiting room, just to be there, willing to do whatever they could. The nurses, doctors, all the professionals in and around the NICU, worked tirelessly round the clock to protect the life and well-being of this child.
This picture is not of my grandson.
Birthing Center of South Texas https://www.mcallenmedicalcenter.com/services/nicu
It is a picture of a child in a NICU Birthing Center in South Texas, where, as their website promises, “intensive care services performed by skilled surgical teams are available if your baby needs special attention. The special care nursery is family-oriented and provides a high level of medical and nursing care, as well as compassion and caring attention to infants and families.”
Thanks to such compassion and such care, my grandson lives and thrives today, a young Boy Scout taught to be kind and compassionate himself. But I will never forget the incredibly focused concern I felt in those dangerous days, concern, for example, about whether there had been brain damage or any other kind of damage because of the circumstances of his birth. Thankfully, he is brilliantly healthy today.
Now, I have a new but related concern.
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa
Family-oriented, compassionate and caring attention like that promised children in the hospital mentioned above in South Texas is now needed nearby, outside the hospital. The same kind of focused concern I gave my grandson, for life and well-being, is needed for other children, equally precious to their families.
Pediatricians in South Texas are “sounding the alarm as migrant shelters begin filling up with young children separated from their parents” after they have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, according to news reports. Pediatricians are warning that separating migrant children from their families can cause “toxic stress” that disrupts a child’s brain development and harms long-term health. “By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children,” one professional said on television last week.
None of us wants to see a child suffer. We are horrified when we see images of children in bombings or in starvation or in prison camps. We are horrified by the suffering of children in other lands, refugee problems in other countries.
Jewish Children in Nazi Occupied Poland Via http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/cou/pol/gg/gg-food.html
This is in our country. Something is happening here, now, to children, before our eyes.
This post today is not about politics. I don’t speak about politics in these posts. This is about human life and moral compass.
No people, no government has ever been totally innocent in its dealings, with children or anything else. So, I am not inclined to point fingers at anyone. Certainly, I am not castigating any political party here. But I am a student of history, and I think that it is incredibly dangerous to forget history.
Palestinian Child Arrested by Israeli Police Image © Majd Gaith Via Human Rights Watch
Evil is insidious. It sneaks up on us, on the best of us. As I heard Bill Moyers say in an interview last year, most of us only realize the extent of what’s happening, or has happened, afterward, after the war is over, after the decisions have been made and the damage done.
Grace McKinley walking her daughter past hostile whites to school in Nashville, Tennessee, 1957. Knoxville Journal. http://www.crmvet.org/crmpics/nashv_schools.jpg
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
Keeping one’s mind and heart open in the heat of events is extremely difficult.
But an “informed” citizenry is, as our founders proclaimed, the bedrock of democracy and of moral life. So, I wish to re-inform us, to remind us, to call us to ourselves again, to what we know in our hearts to be true.
Cattle Truck Round Up: First Nation children forcefully taken from their homes to be put in boarding schools. Image via Pinterest. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/1196337372213923/
I wish to remind us of how we feel when we have seen children, our children or other people’s children, in distress or danger.
Family members, reunited after fleeing Kosovo, pass 2-year-old Agim Shala through the barbed wire fence into the hands of his grandparents at a camp in Albania. The photo was taken on March 3, 1999.Carol Guzy/The Washington Post/Getty Images
I offer these reminders, in images, of how children are so often caught up in injustice and suffering because of political decisions made, usually for nationalistic concerns. And I remind us all how easy it is for any of us to turn away and do nothing about it until it is too late.
Native American Boys taken from their homes to boarding school. Via PBS https://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/arct.socst.ush.wounded12aschoolsa/taken-from-their-families/#.WyZzIqdKgdU
“Live so that when your children think of fairness, caring, and integrity, they think of you.” H. Jackson Brown, Jr.
Not always, of course. Our country and others have acted again and again to save children. We pride ourselves here on being a nation that has taken in refugees, whether from Hitler’s Germany or from Viet Nam, whether from the ravages of hunger or violence.
Photo-D. Immigrant Children Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. National Park Service
But too often we have waited too long, waited for others in “responsible positions,” to act.
A Turkish paramilitary police officer carries the body of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, refugee, found washed ashore near the Turkish resort of Bodrum. The boats carrying the boy’s family to the Greek island of Kos capsized. His 5-year-old brother and mother also lost their lives. DHA/AP
The time for us, our government and us as individual citizens, to act is now.
With the same intensity I felt in that Newborn Intensive Care Unit for my grandson (and for his mother, I might add), I now focus on all the children who are refugees who are being separated from their mothers, from their families, from whatever bit of security they have been able to salvage as they have left behind whatever homes they have known and traveled for hundreds of miles to escape suffering.
Nayeli Zelaya, from El Salvador, rests alongside her two sleeping siblings, at the sports club where Central American migrants traveling with the annual “Stations of the Cross” caravan are camped out in Mexico, April 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)
I also, by the way, am focused on the children who fear, and have reason to fear, returning to school because of the danger of gun violence. The “toxic stress” they have endured and will endure is intolerable. Let us not tolerate it.
I have, also, a focus on young people who are struggling with mental illness, often because of the social conditions in our world, mental illness that can lead to suicide or to tragic violence against others.
I short, I am concerned for children who are endangered or suffering in any way.
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” Mahatma Gandhi, Indian political and spiritual leader
Like my daughter’s neighbors who were willing to help however they could, let us all stand together, regardless of political or religious or any other kind of persuasion, to protect children’s lives.
Let us all consider what we can do, now, today. Each in our own manner, let us act in ways that bring us together around solutions, not rhetoric.
Let us all remember how it feels to tremble before the tiny body of an infant in NICU, with a concern as focused as mine was when I was holding my infant grandson when his life was threatened.
Other children are threatened, now.
May our better instincts turn us to actions, immediately, to care for children, all the children.
Glenda Taylor, Earthsprings, June 2018
Ghouta Medical Center, Syrian Children After Bombing in Eastern Ghouta