“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” — Nelson Mandela
In spite of all the darkness and uncertainty in the world today, there is a wellspring of hope that lives on every street and alley and dusty road in the world. This hope is our children.
Fortunately, there are 1.9 billion children in the world — more than a quarter of the world population. And I believe in the hearts of every child contains all the goodness, light, possibility, innocence, and love that the world needs to heal itself and build a better planet. The future is right before our eyes — running, playing, laughing, and dreaming up new worlds for us all. Our children are our hope. And we need to do everything in our power to protect them.
Unfortunately, we are caring for our children in the same way we are caring for our earth, with our backs turned away and our eyes diverted from the truth.
Our children are in pain. All across the globe, you will find children who are suffering — the victims of physical, mental, and emotional abuse. The realities of everyday life are slowly dimming their light. And it’s getting worse.
June 4 is the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. Yes, it is disheartening to know that we even need such a day in this modern-day world. But we do. This particular day affirms the United Nations’ commitment to protecting the rights of children from violence, exploitation, and abuse. I would like to think we are also doing our part and saying No more!
The fact is simple: millions of children worldwide, and from all economic backgrounds, across all ages, religions, and cultures suffer violence, exploitation, and abuse every day. Millions more are at risk.
Making matters worse, some children are particularly vulnerable because of gender, race, ethnic origin, or economic status. Others are vulnerable because they have disabilities, or are orphaned, indigenous, or come from ethnic minorities. And then there are all those children who are living and working on the streets, living in institutions and detentions, or in communities where inequality, unemployment, and poverty are everywhere. Even more alarming is this: only a small proportion of acts of violence and abuse are reported and investigated, and few perpetrators are held accountable.
Of course, abuse and neglect in any form (and however slight) affect every part of a child’s life, from how to learn and socialize, to how to trust and transition into adulthood. Most of all, it steals their innocence and squelches their spirit. It dims their light and crushes what’s possible.
And when you diminish a child’s light, you diminish light from the world.
While the International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression celebrates the millions of individuals and organizations working to protect and preserve children’s rights, it is also a call for each of us to awaken to the atrocity of abuse against children in all forms. More than that, it is a call to action — to do our part in creating a better world for our children.
The cornerstone of any spiritual path will always be personal responsibility. We are only as conscious as we are awake to what is happening in our world. Of course, this begins with our own inner spiritual worlds. But we must remember that we are also citizens of the planet, and how we treat others is a reflection of our higher awareness, and our love for the Divine. And there is no more important place to become awake than with how we treat our children.
As the great American poet, Carl Sagan once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” It is a sweet quote, and perhaps the reason that I have always seen our children as beautiful and freshly planted gardens — gardens that are full of hope and unimagined possibility. And we are the caretakers of these gardens.
While it might not be possible for us to change what is happening in other parts of the world, we can protect the gardens in our own backyards. The fact is, a better world always begins at home. We must protect the children in our lives — water, nurture, and fill them with all the nutrients they need to grow into who they were meant to become. We must fill them with freedom, trust, the Divine, a sense of curiosity and wonder, and the belief that anything is possible. Our children need to know we believe in them.
We are the gardeners for their future.
Fred Rogers, the long-time television host used to say, “Anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.” I couldn’t agree more.
This is our line in the sand. It is the perfect time in history for us all to recommit our passion and energy into protecting our children while helping them discover how wonderful and magical they are. And love them beyond measure.
Go ahead and be a child’s hero. Help make the world a better place.