I had not seen my nieces Nina and Sanaa ages 6 and 9 since the beginning of the year so it was a treat to see their smiling faces as they came through the door of my mother’s apartment while I was visiting her. I’ve been in their lives, and they in mine since they were born. We are happy, very happy, when we see each other. Hugs all around, we went straight to the business of catching up. I asked them to tell me what they were learning in school. They stood in front of me, side-by-side, telling me everything they could think of, talking over each other. When I could get a word in I’d ask a question or give them praise and their faces glowed. Nina ran out of things to say because she’s only in the first grade. Sanaa’s commentary on her class subjects continued while Nina stared looked at me as if she was studying my every word and gesture. I knew she was busy making memories because that’s what she does. She studies people and remembers everything about them. At one point she broke rank with her sister and silently came over to me and hugged me around my waist. I placed arms around her shoulders, noticing how small she was. And, I felt protective of her.
This moment played in my mind as I sat down to write. And, because I am always contemplating this problem of human trafficking I allowed myself to image what loved ones of children who have been taken from them, who have disappeared without a trace, must feel. How they bear the unbearable. And, how do we, as adults protect our children in the 21st century.
When I was old enough, about Sanaa’s age, to walk around the neighborhood and visit a friend around the corner or living in the next block, my parents told me to never get in a car with strangers and never go in anyone’s house unless I came home and told them where I was going. They didn’t have to say that to do otherwise was a very bad idea. I heard it in their tone of voice and saw it in their faces. No questions asked. Needless to say this limited my social life. So, when Facebook introduced the idea of using the word “friend” to substitute for, “new acquaintance” or “someone I just met”, or even better yet, “ How do I know you?” I was baffled and curious about how this was going to go. The public bought into the idea big time, and people began having thousands of “friends”. “Friending” was a wonderful thing and the more the better. Now we have to fix this. Through the ease of friending the internet is the prime vehicle for luring children and young people into human trafficking.
With so much friending going on I wonder what should be said to parents as they become aware that human trafficking is not just in some foreign country as Americans like to believe, but is very active here in America. How do I keep them calm?