Having lived in 9 places during my career, plus 3 before and one since, I have scattered friends like breadcrumbs, from New York to California. I must admit, I sometimes wish my life were more like some of yours. You’ve lived in Central Oklahoma all your life; you still get to hang with high school friends, fraternity or sorority brothers and sisters, and maybe even still attend the same church as you grew up in. I am, however, glad that I live here and not in Northern New Jersey, and I am glad of the choice I made to be mobile..
Yes, I am a Jersey Boy. Born in Manhattan but taken home to Bergenfield a week later, I grew up in the land of dese and dose and youse. A growing love of the outdoors took me to the Adirondacks for six summers, and the hope of something new took me to Hillsdale, Michigan for college. From there I went to work for the Boy Scouts of America and moved from New York to several places in North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, and Los Angeles, and back here in retirement.
So this morning on Facebook, I was drawn into a chat on a page that serves people from Bergenfield. The conversation was about how safe we all felt as kids, growing up just 8 miles from Times Square in the 50’s and 60’s. Eleven was a magic age, when my parents started letting me go with a friend on the bus into Manhattan. It’s not just that I felt safe; I never knew what it was to feel UNsafe. Yes, eventually I wandered into places where I knew I shouldn’t be, and came to understand what unsafe felt like, but that was rare and I knew what to do about it.
My kids grew up feeling safe, other than the monster under the bed and the ghost in the closet. Now in their thirties and forties, they have had times when they felt unsafe, but again, they knew where they were and what to do about it. And now they have kids, one little boy each, ages nearly-four and nearly-one. And their Pops is worried about their safety. It’s not that I think they’ll always be safe – nobody really can be – but I want them to be able to feel safe and not to always feel like they’re not!
For too many kids growing up today, and even for too many adults, they have never had that feeling of safety. Their entire lives are lived in a state of anxiety. The dangers they face are real, and there’s no getting around it. Somehow we have to find that right mix of kindness and vigilance that will bring about a change.
As we enter another political season, we need to ask ourselves what we can do to make the world a safer place, to make this a safer community, and how we can help kids grow up feeling – and being – safe. Decisions made on that basis will make a difference.