Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: It’s a hard-knock life for lots of kids

Dec. 15, 2012 @ 04:02 PM

In the toy aisle among the holiday shoppers in Durham, I heard a little kid say something with a really nasty tone of voice. The kid’s phrasing also conveyed that this was something repeated from an adult, and not a happy one.

Then I heard an angry older voice too, maybe a parent, maybe a sibling. Unhappiness all around. Arguing ensued. My body told me to get out of there. My mind made me stay, watching out of the corner of my eye in case someone was about to hit someone. I waited. More raised voices, but no action. Inside, I was arming myself for what I would do if I thought a child was in danger. The arguing dissipated. No threat. Nothing to report. Later, I saw one of the kids, and smiled at her.

December isn’t always a month of happiness at home. I know I wrote about that last week, about the fun flurry of festivities. And that’s the majority, we’d like to think. But this month also brings home the fact that many children live in very unhappy homes for one reason or another. Could be poverty, or addiction, or abuse, or just jerks for parents.

Getting involved in that incident at the store would have definitely been poking the bear, but sometimes the risk is worth it. I was alone. If I had my child with me, my first job would be to protect him, of course, so I would have alerted someone else about that aisle situation. Most ways to help children, however, aren’t in the on-the-scene action, but in the behind-the-scenes work. Like the real Santa Clauses this time of year delivering toys.

Another day, at another store, in another toy aisle, I tried to explain to my son why we were buying presents for a kid we don’t know. I said we were helping Santa out to make sure the kid received plenty of gifts, because not everyone has money for presents. My son wanted to know why not. I explained that his dad and I were lucky to both have jobs that paid the bills plus enough for gifts, but not everyone does. Why not? Because not everyone makes the same amount of money at their jobs, or has a job, or can work, I said. So because we can pay our bills, we should help others because it is the right thing to do. Because life isn’t fair.

So many children have hard lives, much harder lives than you and I did. The small joy a toy can bring is a momentary distraction from their reality. Thousands and thousands of kids, right here in Durham, live in poverty. Hopefully you’ve already donated to the many toy drives for children.

If you’re part of a religious group, consider going to the Faith Summit on Child Poverty, which addresses exactly what you think it does. It is Jan. 24 at Union Baptist Church. Register and find out more by emailing faithsummitonchildpoverty@gmail.com. We are our brother’s and sister’s keeper. Find a way to help.


Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at: dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.