Friday, July 15, 2011

Some Thoughts on the News

The most recent stories about Leiby Kletzky, the 8 year old boy who was kidnapped on his first independent walk home from camp and killed, the police say, by a man from his neighborhood, touch on a natural worry among parents: could this happen to my child?


A New York Times story, “With Boy’s Killing, Parents Confront Worst Fears” begins with what it calls the “maxims passed down for generations: Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t sit in the last car of the subway train. If you are lost, look for someone in a uniform. If something bad happens, scream! “

But there's reason to look beyond the limited protection these maxims offer to strategies that might reduce our risks, if not our fears.

That’s one of the reasons Gavin de Becker’s book, Protecting the Gift, is worth taking another look at.

I can’t do justice to the clarity of thought, analysis and blunt advice given in de Becker’s book, but two things strike me as particularly important to remember in the context of this most recent story.

First, de Becker debunks the idea that children should never speak to strangers. The book suggests that in fact, children should be taught how to select the right stranger to talk to should they be in need of help. While that sounds complex, de Becker helps us narrow things down quickly by suggesting that women, rather than men, prove to be better choices.

Second, there’s the idea of “looking for someone in a uniform”. The problem with that is that it’s hard to tell the uniform of a police officer from that of a security guard. The suspect, Levi Aron, once worked as a security guard, it’s been reported, reinforcing de Becker’s general assessment of that group.

Politically correct? No.

And nothing will explain the incomprehensible cruelty one human can inflict upon another.

But, if you want to move past the fear and take a look at some blunt strategies, I think de Becker’s book is one of the most helpful books a parent can read. Especially right now. Not only because of this heartbreaking story, but because the schedule of summer often challenges the routines and experiences we've grown accustomed to throughout the school year.

My only other thoughts on this news are those of deep sympathy for the family.

Post Script: I recently heard from a long time friend and reader who lives in Brooklyn. She wrote "I organized a collection in our neighborhood (which borders two of the neighborhoods involved) to plant a tree in Prospect Park in Leiby Kletzky's memory. Planting a tree is a Jewish tradition and the park is used by all communities in Brooklyn so we thought it would be a nice gesture. We are all so desperate to DO something." Contributions to this Prospect Park fund can be made at this site, with "Leiby Kletzky Tree Fund" noted in the comment section.

1 comment:

jcp said...

I learned so much from The Gift of Fear and now my husband and I are going to read Protecting the Gift. Thank you!