Young girl didn't deserve this

Published 6:37 am Tuesday, December 24, 2002

By By BILL CRIST – Publisher
In my heart, I knew that I should stop and say something, but often times that is much easier said than done.
Several months ago, our televisions were filled with the shocking video evidence of a young mother beating her child ouside a store in Indiana. We expressed outrage that the mother could beat her child repeatedly as the young girl sat strapped, defenseless, in her car seat. When we learned that the woman's sister was also present at the time, the burning in many of our stomachs grew even stronger.
While that particular case of child abuse took place several hundred miles from here, the cruel reality is that similar scenes take place right here in our own backyard. Such was the case last Friday afternoon as I was leaving an area grocery store.
Walking out to my car, I could hear the young girl crying out. Ever since my own daughter was born nearly 19 months ago, I am probably more aware of the sound of a child's suffering.
A quick glance around the parking lot revealed her father, who was carrying the young girl under his arm like a package. As we walked down our respective aisles toward our vehicles, we both stopped in about the same area. Before putting her in the back seat of his own car, though, he pulled the crying behind the car and proceeded to raise his hand to her.
Her screaming intensified, so he put her in the back seat and appeared to be shouting at her, waving his hand in her face as she continued to cry out.
Several cars drove by the parked vehicle as two women approached and proceeded to put their bags in the trunk.
We all hope that we'll do the right thing when we're faced with a situation like this one. Doing so at the time is often difficult, though.
One reaction is to turn away and pretend that we didn't see the offensive actions. The other is to enter the situation and try to correct another person's actions. As our society has become increasingly violent, the "right" decision in cases like this has become more difficult to make, though.
Even as I drove my own vehicle towards the other car, I wasn't sure if I'd roll down my window and make a comment in passing, if I'd get out and confront the offender or if I'd simply drive by and just cast a scornful glance.
With my conscience overruling what may have been my better sense, I stopped and told the young man that he didn't need to hit the young girl to make her stop crying. He had several choice words for this "preppy…" The rest is largely unprintable.
Driving home I was shaking with my own anger at how this man had taken out his frustrations on the young girl. She likely did not know why he was hitting her, waving his finger in her face and shouting at her.
I thought about my own daughter, and the smile she brings to my face when I walk in the house and she screams out in delight. While there are certainly occasions that her sometimes ornery behavior has me feeling like I'm at wit's end, the thought of raising my own hand to her has never crossed my mind.
Child abuse is a serious, largely ignored problem in our society. We're raising a generation of children that are taught that the way to resolve a problem is through violence, and that's a terrible lesson to be teaching them.
For all I know, my own comments may have led to another rebuke, but something had to be said. I hope and pray that her father will work a little harder in the future to control his anger, but that is unlikely. That's a tragedy, and this public outburst is unlikely the last one that he'll make.
One benefactor from the event will be my own daughter, Georgiana. Tonight when I get home she's going to get an extra hug from her dad, and then I'll spend a little extra time reading and playing with her.
For many children, that would be the best Christmas present they could get from their parents.
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