Value is the measure by which everything is judged. Tools and services are evaluated by the amount of value they bring to the table. People are also evaluated based on their individual or collective value. What is the value of a child’s life? How is it determined? Is it promise or proximity? Does society look at what the child has the potential to accomplish – or is it more important for a society to take care of its own kids first? The answer is both simple and complex.
It is a virtually universal agreement that human society places a high value on children, in theory anyway. To look at what a society values, one need only listen to the promises that make up the stump speeches of politicians. One unyielding hallmark is the promise to fight for education and children’s rights – regardless of whether this is ever actually delivered upon. In public, people generally assert how precious children are to them. Often, however, sentiments do not translate into action.
Disconnect between valuing the lives of children and true action to protect them on a universal level lies in the question of proximity. As advanced as the human species is, it is still at its core an animal, ruled by instinct. Much like in the animal kingdom, people will always place higher value on what is closest to them. A person’s own children will always take precedence over others – and they should. To be a parent is both the greatest gift in the world and the highest responsibility.
The drop gets exponentially greater the further from one’s own inner circle another person is. Children in a person’s community are valuable to them. Outside the community, it becomes a gray area. Because the stories of hurting children come from distant cities or countries, people feel powerless to do anything to help, so on an evolutionary level, there is an emotional disconnect. It hurts to feel powerless – to see people hurting and not be able to do anything about it. The human brain is quite adept at cutting off anything that leads to pain.
It doesn’t make someone a bad person to not be able to prioritize suffering children, but it does leave their heart incomplete. There is something wonderful that comes from opening one’s heart to others – especially those who are completely unrelated on a biological level. The reason for this is that it awakens the deep connection that exists between all people. Human beings are brothers and sisters, only separated because of man-made rules and borders. All religions and spiritual beliefs attest to the connection between humans. It is people in power who have created these disconnects between people.
Once the realization of the collective nature of humanity is reached, proactive involvement in the welfare of the world’s children comes naturally. The stories of refugee children drowning in the Mediterranean Sea are no longer news segments – they are a call-to-action. One sees those children and says “I can’t let that happen anymore.” The reaction is the same as if it were the person’s own child in peril. It is this emotional connection that changes the world.
The children of the world are the only hope for the future of this planet, and the children who are most at-risk are the very ones who can fix the problems in their communities or countries. A child who has grown up surrounded by economic hardship and gang violence can, with quality education and mentoring, grow up and become a leader in his or her community. An outsider is not going to have the deep roots in the community to ignite the fire of passion necessary to push through all the obstacles to positive change – but a child who has grown up there will. In the war-torn nations of the Middle East, only the children from there can bring about peace – it will not come from western powers.
Although the path to helping the children of the world seems impassable, there are ways to effect the kind of change necessary to give them room to work. The crucial step is for people to become invested in these children. Social media has proven the power of the ordinary citizen to effect change. Citizens of powerful countries must rise up and give their leader no choice but to help these children. When politicians dehumanize refugee children, people must respond with overwhelming force on social media and at the polls.
There are other avenues to securing the futures of the world’s children. Organizations are already set up to help children in any number of situations. There are a number of ways to help Syrian refugees, which included the children which can be found at the following link: http://www.pri.org/stories/2015-09-03/5-groups-doing-important-work-help-refugees-you-may-not-have-heard . Malala Yousafzai’s “Malala Fund” is a shining example of an organization working to establish quality education for children in underdeveloped and war-stricken countries. Education for these children is key to them growing up with the skills to become leaders. There are many, many others. Google can be a wealth of information for finding these charities. It is not difficult to find ways to help, once one has committed to the task.
The children of the world need help – and the world needs them. Even if compassion is not enough to drive change, people living in wealthy nations must understand the ripple effect that the world’s ignorance of the plight of these children will have. Humans have long memories and what is never forgotten is who ignored one’s cries for help. While self-interest is not the noblest motivation, if it works then so be it. Ultimately, God and history will hold this generation accountable for how it has served or failed its children. The only true question is what will that judgment be? People must open their hearts. The situation has never been more dire.