Regular readers will know of my support for the Fresh Air Fund, a wonderful organization that sponsors "fresh air"--i.e. rural, country--experiences for inner city children every summer. I heard today that they are still looking for host homes for the remaining weeks of the summer--and, of course, for the funds needed to make it all happen. I hope that you won't mind that I draw this, once again, to your attention.
I myself was brought up in the English countryside, and I still harbor that deep need to breathe air freshly oxygenated by the woods and forests, to behold the great expanse of open fields and unobstructed skies, to see the moon and stars and experience the simple darkness of the night, to smell the infinite palette of emanations that proceed from nature, and to cleanse the soul from the toxic pollution of the city. It's not just the air that city-dwellers breathe, it's also the constant, sometimes overwhelming noise and the omnipresence of frequently artificial light. I pity the deprivation of children who lack the means and the opportunity to experience "fresh air." I believe that it nurtures the human spirit as nothing else. If you agree with me and if you can help--with the offer of a loving, temporary home, by spreading the word, or with a cash donation, please join me in supporting this effort as you can.
And while we're talking about the way our global community treats its children, let's spare a thought for those deprived or exploited in even more dreadful ways. Let's think about the children at risk in the recent floods in Pakistan and, if you will, consider helping the UNICEF relief effort. Their primary enemy, at least, is nature; but that enemy is aided by the lack of human will to address their misfortune. Worse, though, there are millions of children, world-wide, unconscionably exploited by human predators. Amnesty International estimates a quarter million enslaved as front-line soldiers in countries like Angola and Rwanda, Colombia and Sri Lanka. And then there are those who are trafficked throughout the world by the utterly depraved as sex slaves to the utterly depraved...
This morning, sitting at a local open-air restaurant for a quiet breakfast, we encountered an old friend who is now working for the International Agency for Crimes Against Children, an organization that works to combat the international criminal trafficking of children. It is an uncomfortably incongruous experience to be sitting in a pleasant seaside restaurant and at the same time hearing about these things. It's hard to believe that this kind of human being exists outside the pages of crime fiction. I happen to be reading, at this moment, Steig Larsson's novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest, the third book in his phenomenally successful trilogy. These page-turners--and the Swedish movies already made from them--are thrillers with a social conscience, exploring the criminal underworld of child and other sex-slave trafficking and its political enablers. Their extraordinary central figure, Lisbeth Salander, is at once a victim and an avenging angel in this seamy underworld--a character as compelling as any in contemporary fiction.
I am fortunate, I know, to live a privileged and protected life. All the more reason, then, to do those small things that are within my power to help those who are less fortunate, and who are condemned to live lives of unimaginable pain and suffering. My commitment today is to chip in a small share to further the work of some of the the good people dedicated to the welfare of our children. May I invite you to join me?