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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Children keep asking me if they are safe

“I don’t get why, who would kill kids? Little kids. Kids who just started kKindergarten. Like no second chance, someone just kills a kid. Just feel like bursting out with tears. I don’t care about what anybody says. And then I hear there was a kid who said, 'I don’t want to die -- I want to make it to Christmas.' I’m so sad.”
-- Ty Quan, age 11, on Facebook

I have read so many responses from kids on Facebook about the shooting in Newtown. They are heart-wrenching. Street kids are saying to me, “I hate guns.” Where are our adult leaders speaking to these children? There was an assembly on Friday at Central Park but the shooting was not mentioned. Why? The same at Mont Pleasant Middle School.

The same on Monday. Nada -- nothing. Is this really the best way to handle this? Kids were being texted while they were in school and coming out hearing strange and twisted stories about this incident. They needed counseling and ears to listen to their questions. From what I was seeing the main thrust of response was adults to other adults. Fred Rogers would have known what to say. In fact he showed up several times on adult Facebook sites. But never on a kid site. At least not to my knowledge.

It’s as if our street kids are invisible. They have grown up with and are living in communities of violence. They hear the guns shooting every day. They speak about not wanting to walk down Schenectady Street. They are the ones that need people reaching out to them. People they know and trust. They need to be part of a massive hug-a-thon.

Adults are having vigils, this to help them feel better. Where are the gatherings for kids? I read Ms. Porterfield in the paper saying that she felt Schenectady was a counterpart to Newtown. And mentioned having a relative shot down in a car. “All four people in the car were killed,” she said. Well, yes, we feel your pain Marion, but no one is mentioning how this affects the kids. I have one child whose cousin goes to the Newtown school. We, me and 9 boys, talked about this in the car. The boys were busy interrupting each other, they were so anxious to talk.

I am one person and not a trained counselor at that. But I can be quiet and listen, I can let them know I care. I know one mother in Steinmetz Homes who won’t let her daughter back in school until she knows the schools are safe. But she is in the minority. I have heard next to nothing from other parents. It is as if nothing has happened. Except it has. It is all over television and Facebook. It is eating at these boys and girls.

Some link it to the police raid on Lincoln Avenue where the dog got shot in the face. Violence is violence. Adults are the enemy. They play at hiding behind things. “Can you still see me?” They query: I see entries on Facebook that say, “I am your bestie, I would take a bullet for you.” These kids talking are 10, 11 and 12 years old. Their schools are having multiple lockdowns and blackouts. They talk about this too, but this has been happening since September.

We live in a struggling, violent community in an increasingly violent nation. A nation that make incredible comments about children dying. The worst I read was, “F*** those kids, they should have came strapped to school.” Many support this. “Five-year-olds carrying guns,” I respond. But I am a voice in the wilderness. Gun mania -- selfishness hidden behind the words freedom, 2nd amendment and constitution. Bah humbug.

The war this country is fighting is internal. And mass violence is the result. We don’t need more arms, it is the people that are armed who are doing the killing. About 10,000 dead by handguns in this indigent nation in 2010. That's 10,000 and change. Actually 953 more. Great Britain 8. The countries with the strictest gun control have the least murders. We are tied with Somalia for the most murders facilitated by guns. And that was when the country was at war.

I saw an ad for buying guns; it had a little business card on it. When you purchased a gun or ammunition it was handed to you for your wallet or whatever you wanted to do with it. It said, “Welcome back to the world of being a man.” Enough said; their kind makes you want to vomit.

I must apologize to Central Park School -- last Tuesday they did 2 minutes of silence out of shared unity for the Sandy Hook School, though one 7th grader started laughing and Ty-Quan, outraged, threatened to thump him. Hard!

A note on Quan here he told me yesterday, that he feels his job in life, at the moment, is to run errands. “I love running errands,” he said. “I told my teacher that she should let me be her errand runner.” Her response was, “I don’t trust you in the halls.” Still and all this school must be doing something right because he frequently comes to QUEST all fired up about the science program. “And if you buy the materials I’ll teach the kids,” he says.

Quite a change from his earlier school days. I overheard him in the car yesterday explaining to some kids that he used to be “bad, real, real bad.” And he was so grateful he never got put into Special Ed. He is pretty much an A student now except for Health. But QUEST will be running a special program just for boys -- age 11 and 12 starting Jan 19 -- watch that grade rise.

I speak glowingly of Central Park and Yates also, but at Hamilton School one of my sixth graders was discussing his school response to his classmates approaching their teacher to ask questions about this terrible disaster and was told to, “Sit down, we don’t discuss these things here. It is inappropriate.” I remember clearly the word inappropriate because Jasaun had some trouble pronouncing the word.

The children are worried about themselves and about other children. They keep asking me if they are safe. Safe at home, in the car, on the street, and at school. This must be addressed and the schools must do their job. They must give the youth a chance to voice their feelings. The big word here being chance. Just because they don’t immediately chatter on about it when asked doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking and worrying, because believe me they are.

And when the big people in their life pretend it never happened, they believe that it is so awful they are trying to hide it from them -- sooo, they tremble inwardly and become even more withdrawn. Seeing extra safety precautions at their schools without some serious explanations only makes them more sure the day of doom is right around the corner.

While the gunslingers are yelling about the constitution and the wealthy are tight-fisted with their money, America’s place in the world is waning. America used to be number one in the world for “Best Opportunities and the Highest Quality of Life.” No longer. Number one in 1988 tied for 16th in 2010. Scandinavia now offers the best opportunities anywhere. And how did they do that?

They tax a lot and spend a lot. A lot on education, medical coverage, decent housing etc. Things which we call entitlements they call necessities. When asked how they overcame their severe financial devastation they replied, “Easy -- gave money to social programs and put the bankers in jail.” They couldn’t understand how we in the U.S. responded in the way we did. Socialism, communism, tea bags, fiscal conservatives -- those are just names, what matters is what works. The Scandinavian countries are now fulfilling a great part of what used to be the Great American Dream.
This information came from a series of stories in the N.Y. Times.

“The real is always ahead of what we can imagine.”
-- Paul Auster

A shout-out to Toys For Tots who gave us 13 bags of toys and 2 brand new bicycles on Friday and Ann Marie, my bookkeeper, who marshaled her church folk into putting up a wish tree and then filling all the wishes. We got a caravan load of presents, including a $25 gift card for Price Chopper. Our kids and adult Christmas party was the best. And we were able to fill outside requests for toys as well. We are most definitely the little agency that could.

In many ways we are so gratified at all the support we get. It may not be the upper 1% who is supporting us but the people who help truly give from the heart.

As 2012 draws to a close I remember all my friends who are no longer with me. I had a steak sandwich today at Morette's Steak Sandwiches on Erie Blvd. This is in remembrance of Gert, my neighbor and second mom. We used to venture down there every other Friday for lunch -- “It’s a joint”, she would say. “I love joints.” She didn’t know about the other more common use of the term. She gave QUEST it’s very first donation, $10,000 in Microsoft stock.

While I was at Morrette's today I told my waitress the tale of Gert and me. “She was my elderly friend,” I said. “But now I am elderly, life goes so quickly by.”

And then there’s Vaughn, died much too young from cancer. We used to meet at Friendly’s, which is now long gone. She got 3 of my girls scholarships to the International World Writers Conference at Skidmore. And Gail George, Ms. Activist personified. My first board member -- first last and foremost, always on the ready with her high standards and impeccable taste. She liked the better restaurants and she definitely dressed to impress. Hats were her specialty and I have one with it’s long swooping feather hung on a lamp in my bedroom. It’s much too elegant for me to wear but not to elegant for me to view and remember our good times. She used to give me gift certificates for mineral baths and massages. She encouraged me to eat well, exercise often and “for goodness sake, take some time for yourself.”

Then there is Helen Quirini, 3 times a Schenectady Patroon, on the cover of Time magazine. I have a picture of her with her walker and bull horn urging the union members on, during their annual supportive march for retirees. She was a powerhouse, we were making a lunch date on the phone on the day before she had the stroke. Strong, strong women and what an act to follow. I miss them so but their spirits drive me forward every single day.

As for all my children young and old I only wish I could shield you from pain and grief. I would be as the boy in “The Catcher in the Rye” and stand in the field and catch you before you fell over into the waiting catastrophic issue, whatever that may be. I would spare you grief and bring you hope. I would shield you and comfort you. But I can only do the best I can. But know my heart will always be with you.

“Never let go of the reins of the wild colt of the heart.”
-- Buddhist Sayinge

Happy Holidays
Joy To The World
Peace Be With You

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December 28, 2012
3:23 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Weapons in the wrong hands don't make me feel safe and since we can't determine, without a doubt, the difference between the right and wrong hands, I don't feel safe. Now I don't lose sleep about it as I try not to let things I can't control also ruin my health. But, so how can I tell kids to feel safe without being a hypocrite?

Holly Clark
January 1, 2013
4:28 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

What a beautiful, powerful and provacative article - brava! You are a woman after my own heart - what wonderful work you do for our children. To address the silence of the adults, too often, people don't know what to say, so they turn away and say nothing. Listen to Mr. Rogers, who said: "Look at the helpers." You state that you are not a trained counselor...all you can do is be quiet, listen, and let them know you care - that is all you need to do, in most cases. I share your dismay about what this country has come's very, very sad.
Keep up your good work!
Holly Clark

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