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The Little Kid Next Door

By: Jefferson Weaver

Jefferson-WeaverSome friends of mine had a special treasure to show off the other day.

Their new baby, tiny as he is, was a huge source of concern and prayer in our community for months. Right now he is a typical newborn, without much personality that can be seen by anyone outside the family, but with an incredible appetite and the potential to be…anything.

He could be a great humanitarian. An heroic soldier. A leader who brings warring neighbors or even nations together. An honorable, hardworking father like his own. His parents and grandparents are proud of the dark-haired little feller, and with good reason. There is nothing more miraculous than a child, and they know they have both a great blessing in their arms, and an even greater responsibility.

Contrast this joyful event, if you will, to another baby I heard about last week.

Charles Russ and his wife Peaches love children; their granddaughter, Daisy, has had a number of issues through the years, stemming from a traffic accident that left her paralyzed. They are reluctant but faithful regulars on the pediatric floors of a couple of medical facilities. Charles was at New Hanover hospital, where his granddaughter is recovering from a broken leg and other issues, when he ran across another little girl on the same floor as Daisy.

It’s natural, considering how Charles reacts when he meets the healthy, happy child of even a complete stranger, that a child in need would catch the attention of his family. I think he and Peaches have a radar for little kids. Sure enough, they found a youngster somewhere between the infant and toddler stages in a room near Daisy’s.

There was anger and sadness in Charles’ eyes when he told me how the nurses had said no one came to visit the baby next door. Due to lawyers and insurance and HIPPA rules and infections and other disgusting, noisome pestilences, one couldn’t simply walk in and visit the young’un — and her family hadn’t bothered.

Even though her own family wouldn’t come visit, a kindhearted stranger couldn’t sit by the child’s bed and sing a lullaby, or maybe hold her little hand.

I was angered, then chilled to the core, by Charles’ description of that child, stuck in a hospital with an illness or injury, without someone to reassure her and chase away the things that go bump in the night. Little kids shouldn’t have to go it alone.

Maybe I was hyper-sensitive, since we’re finishing Vacation Bible School at church, and I’d been surrounded by young’uns for days. Even though we have no children of our own, Miss Rhonda and I love kids, and VBS is one of our favorite times, for that very reason. It’s kind of a tradition at our church for everyone, whether they are a teacher, a helper or an adult student, to thank the moms and dads for loaning us their most prized possessions. Some of the parents looked like they might have considered extending the loan, since school was out, but that’s neither here nor there.

Maybe I was still on a bit of a happy rush from helping out at a summer day camp being run by my buddy, Charlotte Alameda, where I had the opportunity to spend time telling kids about the outdoors – children who were interested and engaged and hungry to learn, children who are obviously loved.

Maybe I was still smiling over seeing the video of a little boy I have yet to meet, yet whom we consider a grandchild, taking his first steps. When little AK was in the hospital, his blood family surrounded him, and there was never a time he opened his eyes that his mom, dad, an aunt and a grandparent weren’t the first things he saw.

Maybe I was just angry, having seen so much love for children in recent days, and yet here is someone who loves kids even more than I do, talking about a baby no one apparently cared about.

Now, to be honest, I scare a lot of little kids, especially those between about the age of 18 months and three or four years. After that, most tend to consider me a big, hairy, friendly tree who sometimes smells bad and has lots of critters.

While I would never intentionally harm a child, or allow one to be harmed, they don’t know that. I’m okay with this. Most of the kids I know have at least one parent they can run to for protection when the “Wildman” smiles at them. Even though I am harmless, they know where to go in case of emergency.

But where, pray tell, can the child next to Daisy’s room run? Who will frighten her boogeymen, sing her to sleep, remind her that even though things hurt right now, they will be better? Who will tell her about Jesus Christ? I wish I knew. I wish I had an answer, but it’s above my pay grade.
Watching AK walk, hearing Donna and David’s crowning jewel fuss, listening to Niece Cara babble, as did her older sister Emory Eliza, talking about fishing with my buddy Bella, listening to Josey snore against my chest while I try to understand Beth’s latest joke – I can’t understand how people wouldn’t treasure a child. I can’t understand how, when given the greatest blessing a person could ever look forward to this side of Heaven, someone can’t take the time to drop by and at least hold a little hand in a hospital bed. How could one have a child in the hospital, and the nurse not even know for sure the last time anyone had visited or even asked how she was doing?

I just can’t understand how anyone couldn’t love and cherish the miracle of a child, and even worse, allow her to become just the little kid next door.

Maybe she is contagious; maybe someone else in the family is critically ill. There are any number of ‘maybes,’ but in my estimation, none of them matter.

A little kid is a precious thing, and should be treated as such. Any grownup who doesn’t recognize that fact deserves to have a boogeyman come and get them in the night, or to cry tears of pain and loneliness and confusion where not even a stranger can help.

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