There's a taboo that's grown in British society, and last night I carefully, gently broke it.
Yesterday evening was the licensing and installation of a new team vicar for Cherwell valley benefice, bringing the ministry team up to 2 people. For various reasons Chris and I were organising the car parking, she in the field where visitors were to go and me standing guard at Lower Heyford village green to prevent cars filling up and blocking Church lane, inconveniencing the village residents.
Just after I got there, a girl of about 10 or 11 came out the the door to The Bell pub and was playing on the steps. She was aware of me, and when I kicked a stone (bored, waiting) she started kicking stones too. We got talking, then exchanged names, talked about favourite colours, school (being back, what she liked etc). When Abby found out my favourite colour she disappeared off behind a car, then came back a moment later with a balloon that colour, which she gave to me. Her little sister came out and wanted the balloon, so I passed that over & she promptly then blew up her one other balloon and gave that to me to make up! She was a lovely, open, generous, articulate and friendly child.
Eventually her mum came out with 2 other children in tow and took her off in a car.
The thing is, in Britain it has become almost verboten for an older male on their own to talk with children. There is such an atmosphere of fear about sexual abuse, abduction, of being accused of such things, of taking photographs for nefarious purposes that it *feels* like there is a state of siege on relationships outside the immediate family unit or school. I wondered a little about Jesus at the well with the Samarian woman: how would his conversation have been seen?
Societies seem to work like the adage about crabs in a bucket, and if anyone tries to climb out the rest work together to pull that one back down. It would be terrible to think that she might be abducted by a stranger, but should that fear create a taboo that made her assume all adults she didn't know were predatory. This also makes me wonder what we are telling our children to believe about other people generally? It *FEELS* like this society lives in fear, that every person is guilty until proven innocent and that invisible barriers have been raised between children and everyone else.
I hope that through her life she will find people who are caring, gentle, whose company she can enjoy and who have good motives, just as I often did while growing up. Yes, there will be some who are very unpleasant, and I also hope she will avoid them just as I seemed to.
I hope and pray this is not a taboo that becomes entrenched.