Anyone who knows me is aware of my affection for animals and birds. Once upon a time, I was a licensed wild bird rehabilitator. Vern built large flight cages in our Sacramento County backyard, and I nurtured wounded and sick birds back to health, moved them to the outdoor enclosure, and gave them the best chance at being returned to the wild.
But I was shocked to learn–during my training as a child advocate–that a U.S. law was signed providing protection to animals before a law was signed protecting our nation’s children. This fact has always bothered me. (To see this for yourself, go to: http://www.childrenservices.org/directservices/USAhistory.html)
Once while I was at a fair in California, a large woman began abusing her small child, slapping his face, knocking his glasses to the ground, and reddening his cheeks. The crowd all around her stopped talking and stared.
I ran for the nearest law enforcement officer, but by the time we arrived at the scene the woman and little boy were gone.
Ever since that day, it has bothered me that I was the only one who tried to help, and I’ve wondered why. What were the bystanders afraid of? That crazed woman? There were dozens of them and only one of her. And I’ve worried about that little boy. By now, he’s a man (if he survived his mother). I’ve prayed for him.
A great many years ago, I was severely neglected by my mother, a single parent, and I was also the victim of much bullying by kids at school. It’s no wonder that I’ve begun speaking on the topic of child abuse, offering hope, and giving direction as to what can be done to improve a child’s chances of recovering from such horrors.
The more resilient a child is, the better are his or her chances of making a full recovery from abuse. We can contribute to a child’s ability to bounce back and to become successful adults by building a shield of protection around his or her heart. Here’s how it’s done.
- Reach out to a child in need–Does the child need a coat, shoes, shorts for P.E., breakfast, a new backpack?
- Smile at little children.
- Be a voice of encouragement–your praise may be the only one they hear.
- Be a voice of positive identity–you may be the only one telling them what they can become, a doctor, an astronaut, a teacher, etc.
- Listen with empathy–you may be the only one with whom the child tells his pain.
- Acknowledge the child’s feelings. One way is to begin with, I understand why that would make you ____ (angry, sad, confused, embarrassed.)
- Get involved in a child’s life–be a mentor, a child advocate, a tutor, a friend.
- Pray for the children. They are the leaders of tomorrow.
Love the children, for love covers a multitude of sins.
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