An Old Blue Ribbon

The year is 2089.

An elderly woman and her granddaughter are going through a long-forgotten trunk that belonged to the woman’s own grandfather in the early part of the century. The child is pulling out items one at a time. “What’s this,” she asks her grandmother. And just about the time grandmother begins to answer, the child finds another treasure that grabs her attention.

Memories of days and struggles past live on in Grandma’s treasures.

Near the bottom of a trunk, the little girl finds an old blue ribbon. She picks it up and stares at it blankly. It’s not nearly as interesting as some of the other treasures she’s been finding. Just as she’s ready to toss it aside, she glances up and sees a tear in her grandmother’s eye. “What’s the matter, Grandma,” she asks? “Did I do something wrong?”

Grandma smiles and assures her that everything is fine, and as she does so, she reaches down and retrieves the blue ribbon, cradling it gently, lost in thoughts of yesterday. “My dear granddaughter,” she begins, “do you know what this blue ribbon stands for?”

“It just looks like an old blue ribbon to me, Grandma. Is it important?”

Her grandmother is quiet for a moment and then begins to tell her this story.

“A long, long time ago, in fact, 100 years ago, a woman from Virginia tied a blue ribbon on the antenna of her car for her grandson who died from child abuse.”

Before she could go on, the young girl interrupts and asks, “Grandma, what is child abuse? I’ve never heard of that?”

“Child,” her grandmother begins, “there was a time when children weren’t always treated with kindness and respect. There were parents who didn’t understand that children need patience and positive attention, and there were moms and dads that had been treated harshly by their own parents. So sometimes when they got angry with children, they hit them and hurt them.”

An innocent question with a hopeful answer.

“Grandma,” the little girl began, “that’s terrible. That kind of thing doesn’t happen any more does it?”

“No,” her Grandma answered, “it doesn’t, and part of the reason is lots of people started focusing on how we all could stop child abuse. People, neighborhoods, and churches helped parents by giving them positive ways to nurture their children. Parents learned to stop hitting their children and found other ways of parenting so that their children would grow up well-disciplined knowing they were loved and valued.”

“Wow, Grandma, I can’t imagine growing up in a home where people didn’t treat you well. It would be so sad. Did you ever know anyone who was abused?”

“Well, of course I did, child. I’ve been alive for nearly ninety years now. Even though all of us worked hard at it, getting rid of something so common took a lot of hard work. It didn’t happen over night. Why, I can remember wearing this blue ribbon when I was little girl. Every April. That was always Child Abuse Prevention Month. We used to wear blue ribbons and the cities would hold events that helped teach about strong families—you see; that ‘prevention’ can’t just be about stopping bad things from happening; it has to be about increasing the positive things, too. And so we had parties for families with games and activities that were fun for everyone…”

Grandma’s eyes began to close; she was drifting off, but the child had one more question, “Grandma, when did child abuse finally end?”

“A while ago,” her grandmother answered; “A while ago, and let’s hope it never comes back. You know we live in a great country here. It also used to be that people owned slaves. It used to be that certain people didn’t have civil rights. Did you know that for over 100 years of our country’s history, women couldn’t even vote? Things change, child. We’re a nation of doers and when we put our minds to it, we can achieve anything we so desire; that’s how child abuse finally ended.”

“Now why don’t you fold that blue ribbon up and put it back in the trunk. It’s a nice reminder of what we can do when we put our minds to something…”

2014: There’s still work to be done.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

What will you do to help make this story a reality?