December Column Winner

Christmas is for children, but all the children

JEFF MULLIN, Enid News & Eagle

Christmas is for children.
The true magic of the holiday can be seen in a child’s wondering eyes, can be heard in a child’s happy squeal, can be felt through a child’s warm hug.
In this country, it is expected children will open an average of $271 worth of gifts this Christmas.
Many of the toys will be broken, or at least the batteries will be worn out, by the end of the day, but no matter. That’s all part of the fun.
After all, Christmas is for children, which is fitting since it celebrates the birth of a child.
Not everyone celebrates Christmas, of course. It is estimated that one of every three people worldwide celebrate Christmas.
But for those who do, the holiday is centered around children.
This Christmas, many children around the world will be anything but merry.
In Syria’s bloody civil war, 11,420 children have been killed so far. Those who have survived the brutal fighting are suffering. They are scared and they are starving.
NBC News recently featured a 7-year-old girl, Abeer, who stood in line for more than an hour to get a pot of hot noodle soup to feed her family, which includes her 11 brothers and sisters.
These days Syrian children don’t dream of sugar plums, gifts or candy canes, they long merely to be safe. A recent NPR story featured a little girl who said, “When there is an attack, bodies are brought to my school. My dad helps with the burials.”
Another boy spoke of witnessing a recent shelling. “One guy lost his head, another lost his hand,” he said.
In Syria, there is a war on childhood.
Elsewhere, children aren’t faring much better.
It is estimated that on average worldwide, two children are sold into sex slavery every minute of every day. An enslaved child may be raped between five and 10 times per night. According to the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children, more than two million reports of child sexual exploitation have been made to the group’s cyber hotline since 1998.
As of June, the NCMEC has reviewed and analyzed more than 90 million child pornography images since 2002.
If they aren’t being exploited sexually, many children worldwide are being kidnapped and pressed into military service. There are hundreds of thousands of child soldiers fighting and dying alongside or in place of adults worldwide, some of whom are as young as 8.
Many other children are starving to death. It is estimated that some 5 million children die each year worldwide because of poor nutrition. In developing countries, malnutrition affects some 32.5 percent of children annually. One of every six children in developing countries, a total of roughly 100 million kids are underweight.
But those are developing countries. In this country, there are 16.7 million children living in food-insecure households. Food-insecure households are defined as those in which residents don’t know how long the food in the house will last and where the money will come from to purchase more.
Undoubtedly you have done what you can to make the children in your home happy this Christmas. On Christmas Eve you will tuck them in their beds, all warm, snug and well-fed, kiss them goodnight and leave them to toss and turn, fighting sleep in happy anticipation of the next morning’s joyous orgy of wrapping ripping.
That’s great. Hold your children close, love them, hug them, make them feel wanted, warm and safe, spoil them if you choose.
But as you celebrate Christmas this week, save a thought and lift a prayer for the children who won’t be thinking about Santa and presents and Christmas dinner, they’ll merely be trying to survive.
After all, Christmas is for children.

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