Dear Mrs. Bluth,
I must tell you about the harrowing event I witnessed on Chol HaMoed Pesach. I know this will probably raise a lot of criticism from many people who read your column, however, I found it frightening and a great chillul Hashem. The outcome was so unexpected and unnerving that I, who never gets involved in any altercation actually got involved in this one.
My wife and I took our four young children to a theme park that was supposedly taken over by a Jewish organization for Chol HaMoed so I was thrilled that we would be in a kosher environment to enjoy the rides, arcade and other theme park offerings while not having to worry about chometz or unwanted altercations by non-Jewish elements. The day was beautiful and warm and we were all having a great time. About two hours into our reverie, we encountered a commotion not too far ahead of us and, thinking someone might need help, we moved on to see if there was something I could do, as I am an EMT.
The crowd had gotten bigger and there was a great deal of yelling and screaming. What we encountered was a middle-aged couple who were holding onto a special kind of leash they had constructed to keep their (I’m assuming) grandchildren tethered together. The woman was in tears as she and her husband were being verbally attacked by some people who found leashing the kids, to be a terrible thing, and accusing the couple of being abusive and unfit to care for the kids, all of whom seemed to be quite young in age.
My wife pleaded with me not to get involved, but when I saw the police arrive, and probably some others from child services, I couldn’t hold back. Moving to the center of the fray, I introduced myself and said that the couple was doing nothing wrong by trying to safely keep the children together so they wouldn’t wander off, which is certainly not indicative of child abuse. The people who made the accusation and called the authorities were black-hatters who were offended that these people would hold the children on a leash which curtailed their freedom of movement and could cause bodily harm. Checking the leash structure, this was highly unlikely, and after explaining my opposition to the others’ claim of abusive treatment, I showed my EMT credentials, gave them my personal information should they need me to testify to anything in the future and they took the couple’s information as well and gave them some form of citation to appear before a magistrate.
As the police left, the people who had accused and reported the older couple, started yelling and finger-pointing at me, that I had sided with child-abusers and one fellow even spit at me for condoning this abusive practice of leashing children like animals. There was no reasoning or being civil with these idiots so I just let my wife pull me away and the crowd dissipated. But the day was ruined and we left the park early.
I am not writing to you for validation because I feel I did the right thing. What I don’t understand is why some people have this great need to be disruptive and meddle where they have no business being. They almost caused these children to be removed from their family because they felt the obligation to report ‘abusive treatment’ where there was none, but my wife says I am guilty of the same thing by mixing in where I was not involved. Had I not, the kids would have been taken away and the litigation to get them back after the fact would have been fraught with emotional angst and costly as well, since they would need to hire a lawyer should it go to court. Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.
Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. We live in a sadly dangerous world that has made us all over cautious and over protective of our young, and rightfully so. How many times have we seen an Amber Alert flash across our phone screen, a child gone missing, possibly abducted?
So, how does one steer a group of grandchildren and keep them together so they don’t wander off in a large crowd of Yom Tov revelers? The answer to this, “any way you can and by almost any safe and supervised means.” Although it is true that we may equate a leash as something we employ to keep an animal from straying, it can also be a tool that will help parents and grandparents keep their precious children and grandchildren from straying and getting lost. If you are asking me, I find nothing wrong or offensive with this, so you’re off the hook with me. I probably would also have come to the assist of the older couple that created the leash that would provide the assurance of keeping their brood safely together in the large crowd.
As to why some people find the need to stir up trouble where there is none, that can have many explanations all stemming from a need to control or giving one the ability to feel superior or important. I do not know these people (if, indeed, they themselves called the authorities and not someone else). There are too many variables here that prohibit a clear cut answer. In any case, the older couple did the right thing in protecting their young from straying away and getting lost and you did the right thing in coming to their aide. But had there been a real and obvious case of abuse, then those whistle-blowers would have been absolutely right in calling the police and reporting it.
We insure our homes, our cars and our jewelry. Are our children any less precious and deserving of safe-keeping?