Albert Einstein once said that “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” Turning a blind eye is the pandemic of a disconnected society.
It is so easy to move from the safety of our house to the safety of our cars to the safety of our destinations each day without truly having a relationship with the people and places along the way. It’s easy to look out the window as we zoom along at the unshaven guy walking in the rain or the busker on the corner, kid in the stroller next to him, hoping to make a few bucks with his guitar and think that avoiding them is best.
We tell our kids “Don’t make eye contact” with anyone at the grocery store, and don’t get me wrong, the personal safety rules that we work hard to put in place to protect our kids are crucial. But, in a society bent on keeping kids out of harm’s way, we forget how knowing our communities, our neighbourhoods and the relationships we build there are the cornerstones of keeping our kids, families and the people around us a whole lot safer.
Tight-knit neighbourhoods where people are invested in each other’s well being – whether they are in the heart of a major city or a tiny town on the West Coast of Canada – are safer, more diverse and more likely to thrive. They also tend to be the places where people rally together during tough times – whether it be for one member of the community or us all.
When it comes to kids, there is safety in knowing who they can turn to at those moments when something has gone wrong. When they know the merchants along the street, the waitress at the local cafe, or even more simple things like where the closest public phone is or that it’s OK to duck into the dentist’s office when they are scared they are better equipped to help themselves in an emergency, even make stronger choices that keep them from getting into a dangerous situation to begin with.
Stephen Baird from Street Smart Kidz Canada is well aware of the importance of empowering kids through helping them get to know the ins and outs of their neighbourhoods. He has dedicated his life to helping families create the relationships with each other and others that ultimately keep kids so much more safe.
He’s created a great Discussion Topics section for families on Streetsmartkidz.ca that takes you and your kids through different situations and gets families started talking about them. But, as he says as well, talking isn’t enough. Taking kids by the hand and letting them understand the neighbourhoods they are in with all of the good and the bad attached means you and they get to know surroundings, people, and ultimately develop trust or understand the importance of avoiding certain people and places.
Armed with those conversations, relationships and a deep, connective investment in a neighbourhood, we all then can celebrate, support, lend a hand, keep safe and never turn a blind eye again to the world around us.
The Rediscovering Our Neighbourhoods project is a 7-part series that inspires people to see our neighbourhoods through the eyes of kids.
Check out the first installment – Getting to Know You – HERE.
Check out the second installment – The Shop Around The Corner – HERE.
Check out the third installment – Making Maps – HERE
Check out the fourth installment – A Foot’s Eye View - HERE