In 1975, Roger Hart conducted a study on where children felt safe to play. He focused on 86 children between the ages of three to 12 in a small town in Vermont.
Hart would follow the kids throughout the day, documenting everywhere the children went by themselves. He then took that information and made physical maps that measured the distance each child was allowed to go by themselves and what the average was for every age group.
Hart discovered that these kids had remarkable freedom. Even four- or five-year-olds, traveled unsupervised throughout their neighborhoods, and by the time they were 10, most of the kids had the run of the entire town. And the kids’ parents weren’t worried either.
Then several years ago (about 2014), he went back to the same town to document the children of the children that he had originally tracked in the ’70s, and when he asked the new generation of kids to show him where they played alone, what he found floored him.
Hart said, “They just didn’t have very far to take me, just walking around their property.” In other words, the huge circle of freedom on the maps had grown tiny.
Hart added, “There is no free range outdoors. Even when the kids are older, parents now say, ‘I need to know where you are at all times.’”
But what’s odd about all of this, is that the town is not more dangerous than it was before. There’s literally no more crime today than there was 40 years ago.
So why has the invisible leash between parent and child tightened so much? Hart says it was absolutely clear from his interviews. The reason was fear. Here’s the conclusion to his new study: fear of the world outside our door narrows the circle of our lives.
Now, doesn’t that sound familiar these days? Social distancing has touched each and every one of us. The concept of groups of no more than 10 people gathering together at one time in one place is significant.
And the six-feet-apart rule has been a powerful “encouragement” to not get close to anyone. “Virtual hugs” are the way of life these days.
But the interesting thing is that the reason for all of this is not crime, not the unknown neighbor next door, or the sexual predator who lives in the neighborhood.
The reason for all of this is a virus, unknown and unseen, that when allowed to run freely has had and could have a deadly impact on those it touches.
The senior living community where I am working has adopted a strict stance on this whole COVID-19 thing. The residents no longer eat in the community dining room, but they are now eating in their individual apartments. They are strongly encouraged (since there is no Shelter-in-Place regulation just yet) to stay within the confines of the building, and not to congregate in larger groups even within th confines of the building.
No visitors or volunteers are permitted in the building, and all staff who enter for work must be temperature-tested before starting work and anytime they enter the building after leaving for any reason. As well, all staff are to wear masks while working in the building.
And we do not know for how long these conditions will prevail. So what is the answer?
The one thing I can say is that fear is not from God. Did you read that clearly? It is well worth repeating: FEAR IS NOT FROM GOD! The verse that comes to mind is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Just the other day I was sitting in the office of my director when one of our residents knocked on the door and said simply, “I’ve got a verse for you today!” Then he quoted this verse. It is a powerful verse, and, if we do commit it to memory – if we are able to do so – it is a constant reminder that one of the most common issues we will face is fear.
The Lord knows each one of us and the innermost leanings of our hearts more than anyone else. He also knows that Satan will attack our hearts with fear more than anything else in my lifetime.
Each and every day of our lives, especially as we are striving to exist in this health-protective environment, the enemy of our souls continues to utter, even SHOUT!, those same lies of fear today.
Sometimes, my friends, whether it is a neighborhood on the watch or a virus on the lam, those voices loudly drive us to fear. But we just need to choose to shut them out, similar to the way we would cover our ears as children to shut out the voices we did not want to hear.
This scripture is a timely voice of wisdom that can and should become a bedrock principle in our personal fight with fear.
When you feel fear, you can know that it is not God speaking those words into your ears. The mind God has promised you is clear, strong, and more than able to deal with whatever He allows into your life.
You can do this…. why?
Because He said you could. So today choose to walk with the spirit of POWER, LOVE, and SOUND MIND. Those are the gifts God has given to YOU!
One of the ways I get through this crisis is to remember a simple little ditty: “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered, and no one was there!”
How will you answer the door?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at email@example.com.