The month of April is a columnist’s dream — or nightmare, depending on your perspective — with so many observances competing for a column topic that it is impossible to pick only one. Hence, this month’s column must be a variety pack.
Of course, to a Christian, the month’s most important event is Easter. However, you have no doubt heard all about that one from writers and speakers who have been ordained. Since I am not, I’ll pass it by.
Perhaps the next in importance for the well-being of humanity is Child Abuse Prevention Month. What can you and I do to prevent child abuse? Of course, the most obvious thing we can do is refrain from abusing children — our own or anyone else’s. If your philosophy is, “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” you need to do some re-thinking. First of all, when the Bible talks of the rod, I believe it is referring to the staff the shepherd used to guide and protect the sheep. I’m sure you remember the verse from Psalm 23: “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” I do not believe the shepherd beat the sheep with his rod. I stop a tiny bit short of saying a child should never be spanked, but for the most part, I think there are other ways of disciplining that are not only kinder, but also more effective. The child needs to learn that their actions have natural consequences, not that it is all right to hit someone as long as you are bigger than he is.
Second, if you know or suspect that a child is being abused, take action. Usually this means reporting the abuse to the proper authorities. If you have a good relationship with the parents, you may be able to address the situation by offering them guidance, but do not stand idly by, fearing the outcome of getting involved.
Third, offer support and assistance to young parents. I believe some abuse occurs because many parents today do not have a support system. If they do not live near their families, there may be nobody to give stressed-out parents a break from the sometimes nerve-wracking task of caring for children. A neighbor could offer to take the kids for an afternoon, as a grandparent probably would if he or she lived nearby.
I can’t resist a brief comment on National Library Week. Public libraries deserve a lot of credit for giving us an opportunity to become well-informed citizens. I love to see parents bringing their young children to the library. You cannot give them a more priceless gift than a love for books. Many families could not afford to buy a significant number of books, but at the library, they are available for the asking.
A passing nod to Cowboy Poetry Week. Some “serious” poets scorn cowboy poetry. All I can say is, don’t knock it until you have tried to write it. Although I write a bit of poetry now and then, I cannot do cowboy poetry. There is at least one poem idea in my head I would like to write in that genre. I have tried, but it is much harder than it looks. Cowboy poetry celebrates a way of life that deserves respect. Often it is light-hearted, giving our spirits a lift. My ten-gallon hat is off to anybody who can write it well.
Then there are Earth Day and Arbor Day, both a celebration of the natural world. If you cannot recognize the beauty of the natural world this spring, you must be blind. I will not give a lecture on the dozens of ways you can help save the planet — all the way from recycling to voting for candidates who care about the environment — but I do encourage you to learn about environmental issues and do your part.
As for Arbor Day, I admit I probably will not plant a tree this year. I did encourage the members of my chat group at the nursing home and their activity director to plant a tree, and I think they plan to do it. Unless you are very young, there is no more selfless act than planting a tree. If the nursing home residents plant a tree, they do it in the full knowledge they will never sit in its shade. They do it for the generations to come. One of the most beautiful sights in my little hometown is the huge maple tree in front of our mayor’s home. Early this spring it was robed in a pale green veil. Come fall, it will become a gigantic red-gold flame. Somebody probably planted it at least 75 years ago and cared for that little sapling so that my townspeople and I can enjoy it today. That is stewardship.
Since April is also National Humor Month, I guess I should lighten up a bit for my closing thought. A favorite joke (which was being told around by my county commissioner last year) deals with three men who were shipwrecked on a deserted island. One day, a bottle washed ashore and a genie popped out offering them each a wish. The first man lamented how much he had missed his family in the several years he had been marooned and wished to go home. Instantly, he was gone. The second man said he did not have much to go home for, but he had always wished he could go to Las Vegas with enough money for high-stakes gambling. In a wink, he was gone. The third man said, “I’ve learned to like it here. The place is beautiful, and there is enough wild game and fruit to eat. I don’t want to leave. I just wish I had my two friends back.”
Enjoy all of the special events of the month. Happy spring!