Posts Tagged ‘children’

When I was a kid, misbehaving could get you a swat on the butt, and mouthing off, the threat of tasting soap. It was considered discipline and the practice was fairly common among everyone we knew. We considered ourselves punished, not abused. Abuse was breaking a child’s arm, burning their hand, leaving them out in the cold with no jacket. That wasn’t happening to us.

Under the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, child abuse and neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker takes an action (or fails to take an action) that results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and it’s why I was walking the streets this morning:

I cannot conceive of the horrific things parents are doing to their children in our world. I’ve known since I was 20 that I couldn’t have children and I’ve often wondered why God has granted that privilege to monsters that hurt, maim and kill their kids instead of to someone who would love and protect them.

Despite not being a mom, I’ve been fortunate to always have special kids in my life – nieces and nephews, the children of friends, kids I’ve come to know through where I live, work and volunteer. When I hear the terrible stories of children being neglected and abused, I think if anybody did that to a kid close to me, I would beat the hell out of them. I get the irony of that statement – punishing violence with violence. But it’s hard not to feel that an abuser deserves the same treatment they’re dishing out.

So how can we help? Pay attention to the kids you know. Watch for signs of abuse. And if you see them, report it. If you missed the numbers in my video, the National Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-422-4453 and in South Dakota where I live, you can also call the Department of Social Services, Division of Child Protection Services, at 1-877-244-0864.

I’ve no shortage of causes to walk for in my “5K A Month” challenge for 2018, but if there’s a group, organization or event you’re passionate about, give me a shout and some information and I’ll add it to my list. Logging miles that have meaning is kind of my thing and I’m happy to help.

Headstones are the name tags the deceased wear to the afterworld. They tell who and what we were, how long we lived, and sometimes, how we died. Their epitaphs are literature’s shortest biographies and they serve as reminders that this was once a real living person worth remembering.

I’ve wandered a lot of cemeteries. My birthday is May 28 and regularly falls on Memorial Day which means as I was growing up, sprays of artificial flowers and 21-gun salutes often preceded cake and presents. In spite of, or probably, because of that, I like cemeteries. They’re quiet, peaceful, and have great stories to tell.

The headstone that, for me, started it all.

The headstones that speak the loudest to me are the children‘s. As a kid, it never dawned on me that some children never grew up, that they existed as perpetual Peter Pans in old photographs and the memories of the people who loved them in their all-too-brief lives. The first child’s headstone I ever saw was in the Presbyterian cemetery in Bancroft, IA. It’s an old cemetery by Midwest standards, with graves dating back to the 1800’s. This was one of them and what drew me to the headstone was the little lamb carved in the top. Why it sticks in my memory is because the child it honors was just over four months old.

I can’t imagine how the parents felt picking out that headstone. I was unable to have children long before I was of an age when I thought about having one so I will never be faced with that kind of loss. But so many others have, and I wonder how they ever deal with it. Here’s how one family did.

Jack and Marj Thompson are young parents, one still in college, the other a Masters graduate in 2010. They have two children, a four-year-old named Lily and a one-year-old named Cash. And in between the two, there was once another named Tehlula Lee. She died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 2010 before she was even two months old.

One day Jack and Marj were walking through Greenwood Cemetery in Brookings, SD, where Tehlula Lee was laid to rest and they noticed something unusual. Many of the gravesites for children had only temporary markers, some of them decades old. They decided to do something about that.

In July of 2010, Jack and Marj formed the Tehlula Lee Foundation. Its goals are simple: to provide permanent headstones for the graves of children and to educate people about SIDS. To date, they’ve purchased 90 headstones for children’s graves at Greenwood Cemetery, and are now working on doing the same for cemeteries in other area communities like Volga, White and Toronto. In addition to the name of the child buried in each grave, each headstone contains an image of Tehlula’s footprint and the epitaph “Every soul leaves a footprint”.

The Thompsons never questioned why the temporary markers at Greenwood Cemetery were not replaced before with permanent stones. Brookings is a college town with a somewhat transient population set in a rural area with an economy that booms and busts. Nor did they judge the parents and families, some of whom have thanked them for the gesture. Jack and Marj just saw a need and made the effort to fill it, creating an incredible legacy for a special little girl and honoring generations of lost lambs before her.

It’s a Sunday morning as I post this and while the urge to get all preachy is there, I won’t. Instead, I’ll say this: There are people in this world doing amazing selfless things, and thank God for that.

To find out more about the Tehlula Lee Foundation or to make a donation, visit their website or the foundation’s Facebook page.