A healthy community is made of people from every stage of life. Parents, grandparents, young adults, mature adults, elders, teens, infants, and of course, children. Each person brings the gifts of his or her life stage to enrich the others. Teens bring innovation as they test and redefine the status quo. Elders share wisdom and steward the community as individuals, as a group, and as a network embedded in the natural world. Adults nurture, provide, and protect. And children? They bring the gift of innocence.
We adults need kids to be whole so we can be whole. Our work to rebuild innocence in children is work for the present and future of us all.
When a child experiences war or other overwhelming tragedies, they discover not beauty, but danger. Dogs can bite. Screams can break hearts. Bombs can maim and kill. The world has become an unpredictable threat, and the more open a child is, the more at risk she is. The loss of childhood innocence is not the beginning of guilt, but a loss of belief in the beauty and trustworthiness of the world. This can devastate a child, but it is also a loss for the community. We rely on children’s gift of wonder, and when they lose innocence, the whole world goes grey.
Part of the work of a mature adult is to connect with innocence. Wonder can be cultivated, and innocence can be rebuilt when lost. No, we cannot undo the hurt or erase the pain, but we can heal and reconnect with beauty and open our hearts to the world again. Perhaps with more caution, perhaps with a few scars, but open nonetheless. The devastation of trauma does not have to be permanent. Children are worth strengthening for their own sake, but healthy children are also crucial contributors to a healthy community. We adults need kids to be whole so we can be whole. Our work to rebuild innocence in children is work for the present and future of us all.
Hanna is from Kharkiv. Last week, she went back to her war-torn home.
When evil-doing comes like falling rain, nobody calls out, ‘Stop!’