On an early cold, grey spring morning in Salta, Argentina, I marched intently towards a rendezvous with some organizers of a farming co-operative and a day long visit to their Development and Peace funded project.
As is too often the case, my focus tightened onto the day’s task almost to the exclusion of anything around me as I walked. Friends here in Whitehorse can attest to my near total state obliviousness at times when I have to be stopped from passing them by on the street, head down with no sign of recognition.
Like most urban centres Salta, a city of about a half a million inhabitants at the base of Andean foothills in northwestern Argentina, has a grey side to it. My route skirted one.
A rail yard, blank one-storey walls of warehouses or workshops bordered by chain link fenced weed strewn lots held down one side of the road. Tired tenements desperately needing fresh paint and plaster watched the street from the far side.
A child who could not have been more than six years old, similarly intent on his task caught my subconscious eye. He brought me to a halt. His image remains with me. Someone had set a small curb-side fire to take away the morning chill. The boy with one foot bared, bent over the flame trying to melt together the broken plastic strap of his cheap molded sandal.
Argentina in 1986 had just emerged from the vicious predations of a decade of ideologically driven military rule. The economy lay in ruins. No one went to the banks to change foreign currency. Black market dealers more than doubled their official rate. The impact of bad economic choices could be seen all around but the little boy’s plight epitomized the stark human reality of them for me.
As the current global economic storm continues to build so will its impact on the world’s children and future generations.
Any cutbacks in basic services like education and health care would threaten to handicap them. Mounting government debt will hobble them and limit future choices unless we can turn a very basic corner. Our economy must be reoriented to make as its primary goal the meeting of people’s needs, all peoples.
Business agendas, bank choices and government initiatives must give primary weight to the impact their investments have in meeting community needs. Social entrepreneurship must be encouraged and rewarded. Corporate or individual greed penalized. The wanton destruction of the environment, communities and economies in the blind service of profit must become a regretted historical footnote.
When it comes right down to it families will bear the brunt of current crisis. Parent’s worries and stress ultimately can not be hidden from children. To allay their fears they must see that their parents as hopeful. This hope must be rooted in action.
In a November Science Daily article – for the full article see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081113181308.htm – Child psychologist Michele C. Thorne, assistant professor of clinical psychology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, noted that in times of stress “children of any age, including teens, need to be reassured that they are safe and will be cared for no matter how the family is faring.
“It’s best to talk with your children about what is going on and to explain the family’s strategies for dealing with it,” stated Thorne.
Weekly family meetings in tough times can help. These could be coupled with age-appropriate invitations to take part in actions in the home or in the community to help cope with any problems the family faces. No matter what, seeing their parents’ active and hope-filled efforts will go a long way in addressing their children’s anxiety. Our parental actions also just maybe will insure that our children won’t have to pay the total cost for our mistakes.
It is with regret that this columnist notes the retirement of Father Mickey Anderson, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Porter Creek. He will soon be leaving the territory. Fr. Mickey will be missed.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, March 1 – First Sunday of Lent. A suggested reading is Mark: 1: 12-15.
Sunday, March 1 – Intercalary Days which maintain the solar calendar for the Baha’i and are a time for offering hospitality, charity and gifts, end.
Monday, March 2 – Lent begins on Clean Monday for Orthodox Christians.
Tuesday, March 3 – 35th anniversary of the agreement between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Churches to seek reconciliation into one communion, attempting to heal the breach dating from the Reformation.