“Summertime, and the living is easy…” so the old song goes. Without a serious injection of care one for the other, however, the next two or so months could be filled with anything but easy living for some Barbadian households.
That’s because traditionally, the carefree, frolic-filled days of summer for the thousands of vacationing Bajan school children, have been characterised by a few tragedies — occurrences which we hope will be non-existent this time around.
It would appear that thoughts of invincibility go hand in hand with youth, and we hardly think that a single child in Barbados gives a thought to death when he or she takes up a bicycle or heads off on a trip to the beach — but as is the case with adults, death is always lurking around the corner wherever there is a life being enjoyed.
That’s why we take this opportunity on the first day of the summer holidays for our school children to admonish parents, and adults generally, to constantly preach a message of safety. Do whatever is necessary to make sure that your children — and anyone else’s children with whom you come into contact for that matter — constantly appreciate the extreme frailty of life and the fact that it only takes one mistake, and often a few seconds, for an otherwise safe activity to turn tragic.
We just need to observe our children to recognise that the spirit of adventure is almost as natural as the need and urge to eat. It would appear that for many, for example, it is impossible to take a simple bike ride from Point “A” to Point “B”. The journey must include a few stunts — jumping over the lower side of a neighbour’s fence, a “wheelie” close to a moving car, or some other potentially dangerous act. And the wearing of a helmet can be equated with the greatest of childhood sins.
Then there is the journey to the sea, where again it would appear that building sand castles, fishing or engaging in beach cricket are too tame for today’s youth — when there is a jetty or some boulders crying out for a youngster to take a dive or to attempt a back flip or two.
Such is the nature of being young; but the constant articulation by adults of the need for safety will play in their minds and perhaps temper their desire to try the more dangerous stunts. All across Barbados there are families for whom the summer holds haunting memories and numbing pain from such acts that ended in death.
Just as painful, and substantially more costly financially and emotionally, however, are those who continue to live with the “scars” of such accidents — families that are still struggling to cope with members who lost a limb or the use of one or more senses or even worse, who are now confined to a wheelchair or a bed from a stunt that went wrong.
Fortunately, whether our politics or some other plausible reason prevents us from supporting the state-sponsored or organised summer camps, we would have to be less than fair and reasonable not to accept that this step by Government now takes thousands of children out of harm’s way and into supervised programmes, no doubt reducing the opportunities for these tragedies.
We also have to recognise the scores of civic-minded Barbadians who have for years been engaged in organised summer activities for our children — even if they do so for a profit. The point is that the country benefits, our children are less exposed and fewer families are left to cry out in the annual ritual of pain.
We reserve a special note of commendation, however, for the National Conservation Commission’s SOS (Save Our Selves) programme which each year teaches interested children — and adults — to swim. We share the view long held by some in our society, that given the exposure of our children to the sea as a result of the size of our island, swimming lessons should be mandatory for every child resident here.
Had such a plan been instituted a decade or two ago, we would have today a significant portion of our citizens with a much better appreciation of and respect for the sea — as well as the knowledge and skill to save those who are lacking.
So we hope our school children are able to enjoy every moment of their summer holiday and that not one of our families is left at the start of the new school year wondering what would have grown from the potential of their young son or daughter had he or she not been lost in some tragic, but avoidable vacation act.
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