All across the country tonight, and right here in the state of Minnesota, parents played with their children, tucked them in, listened to their prayers, kissed them, and told them they loved them. And tomorrow they’ll do it all over again, even though it never makes the newspapers.
I have to believe that.
I have to because the stuff that does make the papers is enough to make you despair of the madness in this world. A “hunter” father who stocks up on beer and pot for a hunting trip but can’t be bothered to buy a hunting license and forgets, apparently, what a turkey looks like, shoots and kills his 8-year-old son. A mother puts her 2-year-old son and 11-month-old daughter in a bathtub full of water and leaves them alone while she shops on-line for new shoes, needing the 2-year-old to come and tell her “something’s wrong” as the infant girl drowns. A massive professional football player decides to play a game of “let’s see if you can get out of a plastic bag” with his two year old son, who is fortunately rescued by his mother. A couple of weeks ago I read about a mother in Chicago who drowned her baby girl in the bathtub because having to care for the baby was cutting into her partying.
In the first two cases, anyway, the reports are that the so-called adults are devastated by what happened, and some people even suggest that the legal sanctions be limited because the perpetrators are already suffering. And to that a little piece of me deep down inside says, “Good,” even though I know I should be compassionate and prayerful.
What I don’t know is what happened to the parental wiring in each of these cases to short-circuit certain instincts. I know that kids can be very frustrating and time-consuming and can wreak havoc on your neat little existence. That is not a capital offense, however, even if it seems as if our culture treats being able to do what you want to do as a sacred thing.
You know, I like doing my own thing too, but I knew the first time I held my first-born that I would willingly die for her; literally if called upon and figuratively every day as I adjusted my life in countless ways big and small to make a place for her (and later her sister) in this world. And I don’t say that to suggest that I’m exceptional in any way; in fact, I think that that is or should be the norm even though the headlines increasingly suggest that that is not the case.
Every so often, however, another headline proves the opposite.
CHICAGO — Chicago police say a man died as he tried to shield his four-year-old daughter from an auto allegedly driven by a man under the influence of a controlled substance.
Joseph Richardson was walking his daughter Kaniyah to a McDonald’s for burgers late Monday when a car jumped the curb. Police say the 39-year-old Richardson grabbed his daughter and held her up out of harm’s way just before the car slammed the two into a fence.
Richardson was pronounced dead at the scene. Kaniyah was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in serious condition.
Police say the driver of the car, 32-year-old Angelo Thomas of Chicago, was charged with two felony counts of aggravated DUI. Witnesses say the man was driving erratically before the accident.
Richardson, a church musician, was the father of three, two girls and a boy, all under the age of 10.
Now that’s a father, willing to leave himself in the path of danger in an effort to move his child out of harm’s way. In fact, he probably didn’t even have to think about it, he just did it. The sad irony is that this little girl will grow up without getting to know this man, while in 3 of the other cases the parent is still here and it is the child that is gone.
Tomorrow, do this in their memory, and in honor of Joseph Richardson: play with your children, tuck them in, listen to their prayers, kiss them. Tell them that you love them.