This crime was carried out by five individuals. One boy planned this heinous crime. Another child poured the paint remover on Michael’s back. One lit the fluid. Two boys stood idly by and watched this atrocious act. After being set on fire, my 15-year-old grandson frantically climbed a nearby fence and dove into the pool on the other side. He quickly emerged, screaming for help. Fortunately help arrived in time to save young Michael. A Trauma Hawk helicopter took him to Broward General Hospital, where he was put on life support. He was later taken to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, Florida, where he lay in a coma for several weeks. Michael suffered burns on over 75% of his body, but he is now recovering with lots of love and support.
The egregious act that was committed against my grandson on October 12, 2009—the day after his 15th birthday—has taught me a tremendous life lesson. I have realized that as a mother of four, a grandmother of ten and a great grandmother of four, I need to accept some responsibility for what is happening in the lives of families.
A lack of compassion and empathy have unfortunately spread to our children. Phrases such as “mind your own business,” and “don’t get involved” have become our way of surviving in the disturbed world we call home. People are conditioned to look the other way. Most folks are scared to help even when they see someone who needs a hand. Because of a few “bad apples,” people are hesitant to help a fellow human stranded on the highway with a broken down vehicle. If an old lady falls down on a busy sidewalk, someone may be afraid to help for fear of a lawsuit. This neglect does not stop with strangers. It is also found in homes and classrooms. Parents and teachers alike must become keen observers. We must take responsibility for children who show difficulty with interaction, sharing and making friends. These are all signs of behavioral problems—and they can’t be seen if you’re looking the other way.
“Lead by example” is an adage often preached but seldom practiced. Who do we respect: our President, our parents, our bosses? How do you explain to your children it is okay to defame all those figureheads, then expect them to foster respect for the average adult, much less their young peers? When we get back to honoring each other, we will teach our children virtues such as “respect” and “kindness.” That is how we can truly lead by example!
I am not interested in punishing those misguided boys that maimed my grandson. Instead, I want to teach people ?to make the right choices:
• Set a good example
• Respect your family and friends
• Do not be judgmental
• Accept our differences without prejudice
• Have open discussions with your children about their world, not yours
• Talk to your children without distractions—no television, cell phones, music, etc.
• Most importantly, listen…it really is an art
Lastly, do not discuss adult matters with young children. If children were ready for grown-up issues they’d have been born adults. That is what they need us for—to be their filters. Limiting children’s exposure to adult issues will ease their transition to adulthood. Youth must stop taking life and inflicting pain. We are their first teachers and should be their first friends. Today must mark our new beginning, before one more child is harmed by their peer or sibling.
Vol 30 Issue 2 Page 17