May 24, 2020

The recent murders of children at the hands of their parents in the last year raises grief, anger and anguish in the hearts of individuals and the community. People around the streets and shops of Bangor have been asking, “What’s going on around here? What the hell is wrong?” As individuals we are shocked. As a community, we grieve and ask questions.

It is difficult to point to exact causes for violence against children and say, “This is the reason why,” or “that is the cause.” The incidents were beyond reason and sanity. But whatever the conditions are that give rise to this type of horrible violence, certainly one underlying factor is the “forgetfulness” of the value of children. We forget how precious is the light in a child’s eye, how innocent are the smiles and the tears, and how dependent the child is on us, the adults, for their lives and happiness.

When terrible incidents like these occur, there is a danger that either an exaggeration of our natural defenses or the intensity of our daily lives will prevent us from attending to the feelings of anger, grief and anguish. This “business” contributes to the forgetfulness of children. We do not like to think about these things too long because they are painful and we do not have an answer or a quick solution to the problem.

In Albert Camus’ book, “The Plague,” the people of a small city go about their business every day leading very ordinary lives. Day by day they live their “everydayness” in their routine, busy ways. One day, a dead rat appears on a street. No one really notices. The next day, several more rats appear. Still, no one pays attention because people are absorbed in their normal, everyday lives. More and more rats appear and pile up over time. Finally, a plague breaks out, the gates of the city are closed and no one can escape.

The problem of violence against children is a plague. Each incident calls for attention and demands that we “see” children as valuable, full of light and promise. It seems that we often have to set aside our own everyday egos in order to be able to do this, and that is very difficult. At any rate, I do not know what the solution is, but I do believe that part of it is to look deeply within and to practice “making conscious” the value of a child. None of us are perfect. We all struggle. We all need help and support. Perhaps finding ways of “practicing the value of children” together will help us, over a long time, to heal and to celebrate children with compassion rather than forget them. John Yasenchak Counselor Education University of Maine Orono

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