Where do the children play

Think of a time when you stopped to listen to the loud chirping of birds.  It matters little whether it was a from a swarm of swallows, gaggle of geese, peep of chickens or an asylum of loons.  Try and recall how you felt in that moment when you suddenly became aware of the collective sound from a group of birds around you in a park, field or even the street.  Distracted, you probably wondered first what the “loud noise” was and once it was identified, stood in wonderment soaking up the sounds and the sight of rows of birds taking short flight and resettling playfully just out of your reach, yet close enough to entice you.  The more “reactive” ones among us could have promptly reached for their ‘phone or other cameras to “shoot” the birds while others might have been content just to stand still and enjoy the experience.

I had precisely such an experience a few days ago.  Except it was not the birds that caught my attention.  Out for a walk on a cold but sunny afternoon kicking away shards of ice on the sidewalk, listening to my selection of Sufi poetry and deep in thought another sound intruded, overpowering all else and stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was going past a middle school and the kids were out, playing in the yard.  Their excited shrieks, laughter and merriment were pervasive.  Smiling, I switched off the music to better enjoy the moment as waves of zestful energy bowled me over.  Scores of kids of all ages, sizes and colors, clad in multicolored winter gear were running around chasing each other, or stood in small groups talking animatedly and laughing loudly.  This was such an invigorating experience and I soaked it all up quietly, overcome by affection.  But then it dawned on me that teachers or guardians these days might consider it suspicious for a lone man to be hanging around without purpose or reason near a school, watching young boys and girls at play.  My enthusiasm diminished, I reluctantly dragged myself away while continuing to look over the shoulder.

My thoughts turned to the kind of environment we live in now, where childlike innocence can easily be overshadowed by distrust, suspicion or other baser emotions.  All it takes is the voice of a lone speaker to plant the seed of doubt imputing wrongful behavior on the part of another.  Like wildfire, others join in and this becomes a “movement” attracting people on either side of centre.  It is ironic however, that while on the lookout for anyone deemed to be acting suspiciously the cynical doubters consider it completely acceptable and rightful for someone to walk around and in schools fully armed, ostensibly for defending themselves and protecting their children!  Or, carpet bombing entire neighborhoods, schools and hospital reducing them to rubble and innocent children and their parents into dismembered, unidentifiable body parts, to keep “us” safe.

When and how did we allow ourselves to become so hardened?  Gave up on compassion and basic humanity because one person’s right to live trumps another’s?

But, then one is reassured as the television screen comes alive with images of youth marching together to declare they do not want to see any more deaths in their schools.  It reminds me of the mid-1960s when youthful protests started and eventually helped end the Vietnam war.  A number of protest songs from that era come to mind, but the following by Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf Islam) from 1970 is relevant even today, almost half a century later:

Where Do The Children Play

Well I think it’s fine, building jumbo planes.
Or taking a ride on a cosmic train.
Switch on summer from a slot machine.
Yes, get what you want to if you want,
‘Cause you can get anything.

I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorry loads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems that you can’t get off.

Oh, I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Well you’ve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
‘Til there’s no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

2 Replies to “Where do the children play”

  1. Loved your blog today. Your emotions and sentiments are put forth so well. Yes it is so true that a lone man watching kids play at school is not a comfortable sight as our minds are now corrupt because our first instinct is to imagine the worst. I myself have stood by the fields in Summer watching kids kick the ball or seeing the joy on their face while on the swing. But I also move on as I wonder people might think negatively. Hope this changes.


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