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The games people play (11/22/2009)
By Janet Lewis Burns
During this time of year, namely the traditional Thanksgiving holiday, we are nudged to be especially aware of all that we should be thankful for every day. We feast with a loving family, wallow in autumn colors, and some attend church services. Others may even muster enough concern to be aware of all those in our own local communities who aren’t so richly blessed.

With this train of thought, I recalled an Utne Reader article I had saved. The photo had caught my eye. Two young boys were embracing in the parking lot of South Bus Terminal, Mexico City. The brief article reports that “street children” sell candy, juggle, steal, and implore passersby for change.

Arising from the fact that local shopkeepers and police find them to be “irritants,” a new law proposes a “ban” on street children, requiring municipal officials to find a safe refuge via social service agencies for these children or face fines of $420 per child unattended. An article in U.S. Catholic suggests that the “ban” may be “a familiar effort to simply, sometimes ruthlessly, remove the problem from view.”

U.S. Catholic encourages responses more humane and practical to the needs of abandoned children – with “clothing and cleanliness, safety and shelter, and adequate nutrition” – and reminds U.S. citizens that they have a role. Our country signed on to the U.N.’s Millennium Challenge Project to cut extreme world poverty in half by 2015. If only that could be reality!

Considering all the deplorable and unjust atrocities going on in a global world today, one often wonders, “who’s in charge?” When child molesters are released into mainstream public after serving absurdly short prison terms, someone’s asleep at the wheel.

As our political leaders vie for various positions to office, how much election deception and mudslinging leads to broken promises, and often broken homes, at the end of the campaign trail? As millions are deprived of adequate medical attention because insurance is too expensive, who’s blocking the door?

One million two hundred thousand United States teens won’t graduate from high school; in Detroit only 25% will graduate. One can’t even begin to guess how many young people are e-mailing predators and are misled by scams and dangerous activities. Video games occupy impressionable young minds. Have parents taken a leave of absence!

I asked our granddaughter Alexandra what she thought my generation played with as children, not having all the technological gadgets, trendy toys, 4-wheelers, and text messaging they have now. Of course our youth can’t be blamed for that, nor chastised because some adults choose to spoil them with heaps of stuff.

What used to be “’here we go ‘round the mulberry bush” has become “don’t talk to strangers.” The outdated refrain “no! no!” just doesn’t cut it anymore. The old hometown isn’t what it used to be! As we talked, I remembered that I once played in a sand box. I brought to mind the games of yard – to –yard tag and cap guns and cowboys and Indians (now racially and politically incorrect.) I rode my clumsy, second-handed bicycle all around Lewiston, familiar with the occupants of each house. Parents ordered unruly children to “go outside and play!” Neighborhoods were pleasantly lively with rollicking kids!

Then our conversation took a more daunting path. Ally asked, “Did your mother let you go all over town without an adult?” In these uncertain times, children are left off and picked up at the door of the school by adults, while others ride the bus. With super busy schedules there’s no time for dawdling, but that’s not all; Ally was genuinely concerned as she told me that she saw, from their car window, two of her friends walking on a street in Lewiston a long way from their home – without an adult!

The game of life has big stakes. Game over! Get real! Give Thanksgiving a second thought.

Janet Burns was raised on Fremont Street in Lewiston. She has lived two blocks from her childhood home ever since. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.  


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