Cherishing Children MAG

January 18, 2013
By Jessica Duffield BRONZE, Olathe, Kansas
Jessica Duffield BRONZE, Olathe, Kansas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

As I read, one child sits on my lap and plays with my hair. A little girl just stares into my eyes. A boy with braids sits in front of me with his head down, stroking his blanket.

A couple of years ago my mom introduced my sister and me to the Children’s Place, a haven for the youngest survivors of abuse, neglect, and trauma. The Children’s Place first opened in 1978, and for 34 years has provided day-long treatment programs for children age six weeks through six years.

My mom explained that much of a person’s personality and habits are formed during these early years, which is why I cannot believe that caregivers – most of whom I have been told are relatives – would abuse children knowing that their actions have lifelong effects. That is difficult for me to understand.

The director of The Children’s Place tells us to spread our affection around to as many children as possible. Some of the more outgoing kids make it known that they don’t like sharing us. They crawl into our laps hoping to make it their permanent seat for the day. The director has explained that our goal is to reach out and touch as many kids as we can. Our touch may be the only loving gesture they feel. So, many of these kids fight for our time, attention, and most of all, our touch.

I believe that to make the world a better place we must start by loving the children who are part of this world. Statistics concur that early childhood is the most important time for overall development. Furthermore, data shows that the greatest challenges facing our country – from school dropout rates, to crime, to rising healthcare costs – can only be met by focusing on the development of all our children. It takes little effort to spend an afternoon or day with a child who so desperately needs attention.

Usually, during the December holidays or over spring break, my sister and I spend an afternoon with children at the Children’s Place. We read to them, play with them at recess, and do crafts in Mr. Rudy’s classroom. Mr. Rudy is an ex-professional basketball player who has committed his retirement to providing a nurturing classroom for five- and six-year-old victims of abuse. What a great feeling he must have every day knowing that he is making a difference.

“A child is confirmed as abused or neglected every 36 seconds and dies from abuse or neglect every six hours. This is not an act of God, but our choice as men and women leaders and citizens. This can and must be changed,” explains Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

As I begin to read and look into the eyes of the little girl, I smile and motion for her to come closer. She shyly moves in my direction. And in that instant I feel that my presence is making a difference. If we would all spend just a little time touching a child’s life with love and praise, this world would be a better place.

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