Walking along Rizal Boulevard gives one the chance to experience the picturesque sunset with the calm blue seas. And we say to ourselves, “Ah, life is beautiful. Thank God!” At the same time, it also makes one a witness to life’s inequalities and injustice when we see small children looking famished and dirty begging or sleeping on benches. And we say, “Life is so unfair.” But because we are so dense, so oblivious, or so busy, we have become so clueless as to what to do with one of life’s “aberrations” – the helpless, vulnerable, homeless, and powerless children. We just don’t know the answers. But we do know a few things —
Children who grow up in environments of deficiency, scarcity, and fear are going to develop into angry and destructive adults; children who grow up in a continuous condition of anxiety not knowing where to turn or whom to talk to or ask help from, either for comfort and relief, grow up secluded individuals, the type who would always feel alone, lonely, and deprived.
Children in poor families are not the only ones who live “impoverished” lives. We also have children in our midst who are incapable of learning because they lack the support from home and at school. There are children among us who are hard-pressed beyond their understanding of how to deal with life because of parents who expect them to act beyond their developmental capabilities. There are also children who are pushed aside, browbeaten, and tormented because their peers and their families see them as being different. There are children who are driven into situations that make no sense to them but are afraid to ask questions and seek help. Children are always “pushed” to things or to situations not of their own doing.
How much pushing can children sustain before they push back? Who can they turn to?
Some turn within, build high walls around themselves and become withdrawn. Others turn to groups that take advantage of them for profit. Some turn against others to “reclaim” the power they think they have lost. When there is nowhere to turn to for security and comfort, these children will find places that will likely fill the gap, unfortunately, these are the places that are destructive to them and to those around them.
We need to address these gaps. Basically, we’ve done a lot of posturing about educating the underserved, providing options for children living in high-stress environments, assisting parents understand the huge influence they have in their children’s lives (but these parents seem not to understand). For our part, we have done little to find effective strategies to resolve these issues.
A lot of discussions are done about the ill effects of drug addiction but there is not enough dialogue on why so many children and teenagers feel the need to try drugs. We are all so frightened about a lot of things that we seldom stop to reflect on how an extended hand or a sincere hug can be more potent than the “power” that shabu can provide.
We over-protect our children instead of providing them the emotional skills to look after themselves and the ability to develop significant associations with those who are different.
We spend a lot of time in our jobs than with our children but expect them to develop values they know nothing about because there is no one around to teach them.
The children are the future. Why is it so difficult for us to invest in them? Children need us to show them the way and give them feelings of encouragement, safety and love. They need structure and limits more than physical punishment and cruel words. If they are shown love, patience and compassion, they will learn resilience and sympathy. If they see the world with anticipation and self-assurance, they will not feel the need to bully other children just to show to the world that they are respectable and worth loving. When their accomplishments are appreciated, they will learn to strive more and aspire to become better individuals. They will aspire for the stars; when they drop in the process of reaching for their dreams, they don’t give up, instead, they will persevere and rise again.
Now is the time to really look at ourselves and take responsibility for what is going on with children on this planet. Let us bear in mind — Bill Gates, Mahatma Gandhi, Steve Jobs, and other philanthropists are not the only ones who can change the world. Most of the times, a gutsy child with gigantic dreams can make the world whirl faster and leave a colossal impact for millions of other people to enjoy. (This article was originally published in 2018 but remains relevant today)