"Don't let your mind wander -- it's too little to be let out alone."
Something got my mind to wandering this morning. A lovely sight, and unusual. A girl, somewhere between the ages of 9 and 11, I would say, riding her bike through the crosswalk at Kilimanjaro and Oakland Mills Road. She was wearing a swimsuit, long brightly colored drawstring pants, a bike helmet, and a healthy sense of self-confidence.
Where was she going at 8 am? The swimsuit suggests the pool, perhaps Jeffers Hill? But is it open that early? As I continued down Oakland Mills Road, the image of that lively, smiling girl, so focused on her bike-riding and the fun that lay ahead of her, would not leave my mind.
She was alone.
On a hot summer day, dressed for adventure and fun, she had a place to go, and a purpose.
But she was alone.
In a beautiful, safe neighborhood, crossing a street with a light and a crosswalk, with many family homes nearby--
She was alone.
It is heart-wrenching to me that one girl on a bicycle feels like the last dying gasp of my childhood. I did those sorts of things all the time. I want to celebrate because I see her, yet I worry because, well, we have become a culture of fear.
Recently I followed a link to view a new project from CA: a comic book designed to help both kids and their parents learn about the many benefits of the Columbia community. I love it. I grew up reading coming books; my daughter loves graphic novels.
But I had that same nagging feeling. They are alone. These kids are going all over Columbia without adult supervision. Is that what it was like back in the 70's and 80's, when Columbia was just coming into being? Do the makers of the comic book mean to say we can still have that world today?
I want to believe that, with my whole heart. I want to believe that it's more than a comic book wish.
I have a friend who remembers growing up in Columbia, and his memories are filled with vivid recollections of kids. Kids everywhere, out playing, going to the pool, the tot lots. Teens would babysit if parents were in a bind. Are there fewer children in Columbia today? Or are they all inside, supervised by electronic devices or signed up for activities since both parents today must work?
I am fairly certain of one thing. This girl was not too little to be let out alone. And she wasn't really alone, because her family had given her a chance to develop independence and the joy of accomplishment.
Probably none of them are thinking about that today. But I am.