Recent news stories have reinforced a belief that I hold. A belief that I routinely engage in the most dangerous activity imaginable for an adult male. Now I am no thrill seeker, and I don’t engage in extreme sports. I have never climbed a mountain, jumped out of a plane or gone white water rafting. In fact on the surface it would seem like I do very little on any given day that could be considered ‘dangerous’ in any sense of the word.
No the danger that I speak of is that I routinely interact with children and teens. Here is a list of my dangerous activities;
1- I help run a youth group
2- I coach my children’s sports teams
3- I help out at my children’s school
4- I take my children to the park, the mall, the grocery story without my wife accompanying me.
Maybe these don’t sound like dangerous activities to you. If that is the case God bless you. However I am painfully aware that there is a rapidly growing sense in our culture that every male presents a very real possible risk to minors.
If you think I am exaggerating here are two stories that filled my Facebook news feed over the past few weeks;
First a little more than a week ago a YouTube video went viral. It was of a man and a puppy going over to three different children at a playground to see if he could convince them to leave the park with him. He was successful each time. The video ended say that 700 children are abducted a day. Which as far as I can tell is not true.
And second a man in Australia who took a selfie in a Target store with a Darth Vader cut out. A mother thought he had taken a picture of her children. She then followed the man around the store took his picture shared it on Facebook describing what she thought happened. The picture was shared well over 20,000 times. The man discovered while he was sitting in a business meeting the following day that this picture of him was circulating accusing him of being a pedophile. He had to go to the police and relinquish his phone to prove his innocence.
These kind of stories chill me to the bone. But I am just not sure what to do with them. The fact is that children in the US and Canada have never been safer. Yet it seems like parents have never been more scared. Lives of well meaning, innocent adults are being destroyed, and children are being kept sequestered away for no good reason.
Back in February I was asked to be Olaf at a community festival. I did it because I knew my daughter in particular would be so excited to see Olaf in person. I also knew that a lot of other kids would enjoy it as well. I was excited, but also nervous.
I knew that the kids would want to hug Olaf/me, he does love warm hugs after all. And they would want to pose with him/me for pictures. And that is what happened. So during the evening I tried to make sure that you could see my hand in every picture that was taken. My hands were either resting somewhere on my costume or they were waving in the air. I got the sense that the women dressed up as Elsa and Anna didn’t have the same concern.
I love my children, and I want to be active in their lives. But I also believe in the old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. So I want my children to have other adults in their lives that affect them in a positive way. And I hope I can affect others in a similar positive manor. I am just worried that it is getting too dangerous to try.
What do you think?