A Stones Throw 6-19-14

7

A couple of weeks ago I took a very slow trip from Rising Sun to Patriot. It wasn’t that I wasn’t in a hurry, instead it was because I was following a school bus that was returning young school-age children to their homes.

As the line of cars behind the school bus continued to increase in numbers, I started wondering who was in those cars. Where were they going? Where were they coming from? Were they in a hurry? Would they be late?

Then, a troubling thought hit me.

I wondered if any of the cars in front of me – or behind me – carried a child predator.

As I watched the young boys and girls get off the bus and sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, walk toward a waiting house, I realized that anyone in the line behind the school bus now knew where these young children lived.

It wouldn’t take much effort for someone to troll the area early in the morning looking for these same young people as they wait for the bus to pick them up and take them to school.

Since I only saw a couple of parents – at least adults, if not parents – waiting outside as children got off the bus, I had to wonder how many parents wait outside with their children as they wait for the bus to pick them up in the morning.

I doubt that anyone pays any attention to the cars that get stacked up behind a school bus as it delivers its passengers after school. I doubt that anyone would notice if the same car followed a school bus for several days.

And, I doubt that anyone would realize if that same car drove past those same children as they wait for their school bus to pick them up in the morning.

Until that long, slow ride to Patriot, I had never thought about this. Since then, I have noticed other situations that alarm me.

There is little that causes more excitement on a hot summer day than the tinkling bell of an ice cream truck – or a sno-cone truck. Children and adults alike often flock to the truck to get a taste of their favorite flavor and to cool off – if only for a few moments.

Unfortunately, oftentimes it is only children – unsupervised children – who flock to the truck to get their favorite treat.

I know in a lot of areas, the owner of the ice cream truck has to be licensed and, hopefully vetted, before being allowed to cruise the neighborhoods. I also know that very few, if any, parents take the time to check licenses of either the truck’s owner or of the person driving the truck.

I don’t think we can assume they are always one and the same.

I also don’t think we can assume that a child predator would never have the audacity to drive an ice cream truck that might entice young, unsupervised children to “get up close and personal.”

I don’t portend to suggest that we should not take advantage of a summer respite of ice cream and sno-cones. Instead, I only suggest that a responsible adult pay attention when his/her child skips happily to the truck.

That might ensure that that child also skips happily back.

Am I being an alarmist?

Perhaps.

I know when I was growing up we would play outside, unsupervised, for hours at a time. Curfew was at dark – or when we were called to dinner – or when “Captain Video” came on the television. There was never a concern for child predators.

Even when our children were growing up, they were allowed to spend hours outside, unsupervised, playing somewhere in the neighborhood with their friends.

We never worried about them. We knew they were safe and having fun.

So, what has changed?

Probably nothing – other than publicity.

In today’s world, not a day goes by where a kidnapping, an assault, or something worse happens to a young child. Not a day goes by where we are reminded of the thousands of child predators and sexual predators – often one and the same.

Is this because there are more predators today than in our time?

I guess we will never know.

What I do know is that in today’s world I worry when I see a young child alone without apparent adult supervision. I even worry when I go to one of my grandchildren’s ball games and see young children playing and having fun – as they should be – while their parents concentrate on the ball game.

This is good if those children are playing in the ball game.

This is good if those children are playing in sight of their parents, or several other team parents.

It is not good if they drift away – out of sight.

Out of sight of their parents and other responsible adults that is – but, possibly in sight of someone perhaps less responsible – with thoughts in mind that do not include the safety of the child.

The old adage “out of sight – out of mind” does not work here.

Perhaps it never did.

- Mike Cooney