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Ever since Shavuos I am haunted by a scene I witnessed on the streets of our thriving community. My young grandson was my delightful companion when our pleasant stroll along the avenue was interrupted, to say the least. A couple with their son (about 11) stopped a few feet in front of us. The husband yelled at his wife about wanting the child to walk ahead of them. The mother took their child by the hand and crossed the street, as if in defiance. Her husband took after them and again addressed his wife in a loud and berating tone. To my horror, he then grabbed a hold of the young boy and began to pummel him. The poor child wailed as he was being beaten about his body and face by the man (who I assume was his father).
Had I been alone, I may have been tempted to hang around and maybe even approach the couple to try to help. But my first concern was my seven-year-old grandson who was being exposed to this awfully disturbing incident, of which he had already begun to express his curiosity. (The child’s cries seemed especially upsetting to him.) As we walked quickly and quietly away, I was left to wonder what cruelty lurked in the life of that innocent child who had become the pitiful object of his father’s wrath. I wondered too about his mother who obviously had some feeling for her son – in which case I was curious to know how she is able to continue to subject him (and herself) to this type of unacceptable behavior on the part of her husband.
I write this to both unburden my heavy heart and for parents who are guilty of letting their frustration out on their innocent children to see themselves and come to their senses.
Crying for innocents
Your heart has good reason to cry. Unfortunately, the tears do little to help the youngster who is taking the brunt of his father’s exasperation and anger. Rest assured, however, that had you been in a position to intervene, your good intention would have likely served to aggravate the situation by further inciting the father’s rage.
When one sees a parent lashing out at a child in public under an obviously stressful condition – for instance, a mother who is loaded down with packages and multiple little ones – the onlooker can offer to alleviate the mother’s burden and thus calm her anxiety. But the scene that you came upon was not one where you could have been of any help. Chances are that your interference would have been resented and regarded as an unwanted intrusion, especially if you would have taken the abuser to task.
Even if the couple would have quieted down in the presence of an unwanted audience, this would have offered the abused child only temporary reprieve. The casual observer is at a disadvantage in such a circumstance. If he would happen to be a person of authority – a rabbi or prominent community figure with insight in handling delicate issues – he could venture to approach the couple and offer his help in a non-threatening manner.
On the other hand, anyone aware of abuse being perpetrated in a family should not sit idly by and wait for tragedy to strike. We are fortunate to have in our midst an organization that is in a position to extend real help to victims of abuse. The Shalom Task Force has a hotline that is manned by multilingual trained volunteers, accessible to both victims and the people who care about them. The STF toll-free number is 888-883-2323.
As for the episode that has you so troubled, there is no sense in trying to analyze why, when and how, since there is no way to know what has transpired (for years) beforehand between the warring pair.
Stressed out family members tempted to unleash their anger on their innocents should waste no time in seeking professional help and, in the least, opt for a vacation. Everyone has a need to unwind, and one should seize such opportunity to seriously contemplate and evaluate the true meaning of life.
Our actions today determine the quality of our children’s tomorrow. Parenting is an awesome responsibility that one cannot afford to shirk.
May your future be filled with many fulfilling moments in your role as a mother and grandmother.
Regarding the complaint against Chinese Auctions (Chronicles 7-6), I’ve been a fundraiser for many years. I’ve attended auctions in the past and can state honestly that I give what I intend to give.
A pet peeve of mine: I don’t understand why people pledge and then don’t pay their pledges. Many organizations operate on a shoestring budget. Often, employees (who are in the business of helping people) go weeks without pay. Often, people will hear that an organization did great by an auction/fundraiser. They fail to realize that 40 percent of pledges often go unpaid! This wastes more of the organization’s time and resources, when they have to send statements, make phone calls and appeal to people to pay their bills, as the funds are desperately needed.
There are many employees who work for non-profits who go for weeks without salary because pledges remain unpaid. So, please, don’t let the organization bill you. If you don’t have it, don’t pledge it!
A fundraiser at heart
Thank you for your service to those in need, and for your message to those who need to hear it. In reality, no one enjoys the hassle of pledge collecting – neither the organization nor the pledger.
Ladies and gents, now is the time to gather loose ends and to make good on promises. Rosh Hashanah is around the corner and who can say which merit will tip the scale in our favor? And while writing that check, let’s resolve to withhold pledging insincerely or beyond our means from this day forward.