I don't have kids of my own, but I've always had kids in my life. I became a big sister at age 6 1/2, acquired two more younger brothers, and I've been "Auntie Beth" to countless friends' kids, and an actual Auntie to my niece. I definitely have that "mom" protective instinct. I said recently to my own aunt Karen that I had no idea when I held my niece Makayla for the first time just how much joy this child would bring into my life. She replied "now you know how I feel about you." Blessed doesn't begin to describe how I feel that this child is a part of me. She's 9, and she has a real sense of humor, a sunny and generous spirit, and she's just as happy to spend time with me as I am with her. She and I laugh like hyenas over things that nobody else in the world would find remotely funny and her presence in my life is a constant reminder of just how great life is. I would without hesitation sacrifice my own life to save hers.
Thinking about her makes hearing all the stories coming out of Penn State all the more horrifying. When the news story broke, and every time I read an update, it felt like someone lit a fuse inside me. I feel angry, disgusted, heartbroken and ashamed. When an adult abuses a child, especially an adult in a position of trust like a parent, teacher, coach, scout leader, it is the most heinous and vile violation imaginable. They've taken something away from that child that can never be restored and no amount of punishment can ever right that wrong.
I can't imagine why Penn State's coach thought that it was okay to report what he knew and then sit back and do nothing. How many young people's lives would not have been decimated had Joe Paterno followed through and made sure that the appropriate actions were taken?
It's a mess, and there is no quick fix. Let this be a reminder to us all that children are precious and childhood flies by and is gone before you realize it. Choose your words to the children in your life carefully. A careless, casual criticism could be the words your child carries engraved on his or her heart for the rest of their life. Children are our greatest resource and they deserve to be cherished and protected, even when they're at their most obnoxious. Tell kids how special they are and how much they mean to you.
Give thanks for the children you're blessed to know.