Love in Action

Monday, February 15, 2010

Athough often promoted as a romantic holiday for couples, Valentine’s Day has a wider meaning. Each year on February 14, people throughout North America and parts of Europe share tokens of love and affection with one another. Valentine’s Day celebrates every kind of love from friendship to romantic love and marriage.

Working to prevent child abuse and neglect is, at its heart, a loving act. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has several definitions of love, including:

A strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties: We may not have a personal relationship with every child we encounter, but it’s clear that we want what is best for all children. Our children are the future, and we have a personal stake in their well being.
Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: I met Captain Kangaroo (Bob Keeshan) years ago. In his speech that day he said something that has stayed with me ever since: “Even if you don’t like kids—and not everyone does—it makes sense to ensure that they are well cared for and prepared for a productive adulthood.” The Captain makes sense. He always did, even when I was four years old! Whether or not we are parents, we need to be loyal to and concerned for the next generation and our actions should reflect those values.

The frustrating part of prevention is that we hear a lot more about the problem than we do about solutions. Sometimes when I bring up the issue of prevention, people around me immediately begin discussing the latest horror-filled headline. I know—it’s natural to go there. But going there leaves us nowhere else to go except to a place of powerlessness. We wring our hands and say, “But what can I do? How can I possibly make a difference?”

As advocates, we have enormous power to help our communities understand prevention by modeling prevention in its most practical forms. We can ask elected officials to support programs and services that help children and families. We can ask our schools to sponsor classes and support programs for new parents. We can be good neighbors, offer to baby-sit, or donate our used children’s clothing for use by another family. We can respond to families in crisis and direct people to services. We can do our part to make our community a place where abuse and neglect is less likely to happen, and we can encourage others to do the same.

Let us remember the love behind the work of prevention. Let us give a year-long Valentine to our communities by working together to improve them.

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