You’ve probably heard the saying that “a kind word or a helping hand can go a long way.” For any of us who have ever been in need, we can testify that this saying is true. Krista Ramsey, a Cincinnati Enquirer columnist, recently wrote an article in response to the death of a local child due to abuse and neglect. Ms. Ramsey writes that “we can do more than mourn,” and challenges readers to their part to fight or eliminate child abuse. She contends that most abuse or neglect occurs during times of stress, when parents’ desperate attempts to meet the needs of their family fall short. Ms. Ramsey encourages us to reach out to an isolated parent, provide a kind word to a parent who is overwhelmed or share our own experiences with a parent who seeking some guidance. And I must say I agree with her.
Parent Cafés hosted in Cincinnati’s western communities provide parents with an opportunity to come together and share their worries, ideas and accomplishments. At these events I have witnessed the transformation of many parents. Parents who have felt alone, overwhelmed and devalued leave these events feeling connected, reassured and valued. And what is offered at these events is not a parenting curriculum; it is not tips of what to do or what not to do as a parent. Instead it is parents reaching out to each other. Parents sharing what has worked for them, what they need and what community resources they have found helpful. Each time I attend a Parent Café, I am astounded by parents who are caring, insightful and resourceful. Parents who are willing to give to one another and are also willing to reflect on what they will do differently in order to be the kind of parent they want to be.
I am sharing my experience with you not as a means to market Parent Cafés (although I do think they are fabulous!) but to demonstrate the power that a kind word or helping hand. Over the past few weeks, we have been flooded with images and descriptions of child abuse following the local death of 2-year-old Demarcus Jackson and the national attention on the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. Everyone has questions: How could an adult ever treat a child that way? How did others, aware of what was happening, not come forward? Why do these things continue to happen?
As with so many other tragedies, what is often the hardest to accept is the feeling of powerlessness that occurs in the aftermath. The feeling of hopelessness, that we as a society have not been able to eliminate these tragedies from occurring to our children. But Ms. Ramsey has it right: we do more than mourn. We are entering our holiday season, a perfect time to not only be thankful for what we have but to pay our gratitude forward. I can reach out to my neighbor who is lonely, I can offer a kind word to an overwhelmed parent in the grocery store and I can share my blessings with others. Maybe I cannot impact all of society but I can affect my piece of it, and I know for a fact that a kind word or a helping hand can go a long way. How about you?