|East Cobb Park - a place to run around and play|
But today, I want to ask the question - what happened to our trust in society? What happened to trusting your neighbors, to other humans?
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I rode my bike or walked to school. I had friends to talk to sometimes; I had time to think and enjoy nature at other times. I learned that I was okay by myself, and that I didn't need someone else around for me to be okay. I met neighbors, both old and young. I felt like part of a community.
Fast forward to today, and see how much the world has changed. Moms and dads schedule playdates for their kids, who have no other way of meeting friends. Some moms even refuse to schedule a playdate if the dad is the only parent present at the other house. A woman called 9-1-1 to report a man who talked to her daughter. Yes, the man's only "crime" was speaking to a little girl outside. (The man was looking for his lost puppy.) Another woman called 9-1-1 because a van was slowly following the school bus in her neighborhood. The reason behind this act completely eluded me, since any vehicles following a school bus in a neighborhood drive slowly, or risk hitting a child. But then I learned the van was driven by a Hispanic man.
What are we really so afraid of?
In Sweden, mothers frequently leave their occupied strollers outside a store if a baby is sleeping or resting happily. When asked why, the common response is "Why not? Everyone watches out for babies." The same is true for toddlers, preschoolers, little kids, big kids, and even teens.
So why can't we Americans learn to trust our neighbors, our community, as much as Europeans?
If we trust our neighbors, then our kids can play outside without parents worrying about nebulous danger. If our kids play outside, they get exercise, get practice making friends, learn how to navigate their own corner of the world, and - most importantly - learn to rely on themselves. We help our children grow into responsible adults.
But only if we are willing to put down the mantle of fear, and retake the mantle of trust.