Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Remember: "Every friend was once a stranger"

I was listening to Dennis Prager on the road this morning, between clients, and 2nd hour he mentioned the following story, which has been in the news:

Missing boy’s parents marvel at happy ending

Family describes the pain of the boy’s four-day disappearance

BOUNTIFUL, Utah - Jody Hawkins buckled and collapsed as she climbed into a sheriff’s truck, convinced that authorities were about to tell her that her 11-year-old son had been found dead four days after getting lost in the Utah wilderness.

Instead came the shocker: Her boy was found alive. And not only that, but he was unscathed.

“I really didn’t think he could survive that long in the wilderness,” Hawkins said, her voice breaking at times. “When they told me Brennan was still alive and in good shape, my brain still cannot comprehend that.”


Jody and Toby Hawkins described their ordeal Wednesday during two news conferences at the family’s suburban Salt Lake City home, where Brennan Hawkins made his first public appearance. He answered only one question, saying he felt “good” — before crouching on the ground by his mother’s knees while his parents and four siblings carried on with the news conference.

Source of inspiration
“His personality hasn’t changed one tiny bit,” Jody Hawkins said earlier, adding that one of the first things Brennan asked about was whether the Pokemon cards he bought on eBay last week had arrived.

“I tell you, that’s what got him off that mountain,” she said.

“They were here.”

As for Brennan’s reaction when he saw his picture on TV: “Sweet.”

The boy disappeared last Friday in the Uinta Mountains, about 100 miles east of Salt Lake City, somewhere along a dirt road at a Boy Scout camp. He was found on an ATV trail Tuesday by a volunteer looking for him outside the search area.

Brennan does not remember much of the four days he was missing, his parents said. They said they do not plan to push him to talk about his time in the woods, but they have learned a few answers.

He told his parents and a friend that he would sleep in a crouch, with his sweatshirt pulled down over knees to keep warm. And the parents said Brennan probably took their advice a little too literally about avoiding strangers.

“When an ATV or horse came by, he got off the trail. When they left, he got back on the trail,” Jody Hawkins said. “His biggest fear, he told me, was that someone would steal him.”

It is unclear if that delayed his rescue.


Uphill path
Brennan defied conventional wisdom during his time in the mountains: He went uphill instead of down, while “typically children walk downhill, along the least path of resistance,” Sheriff Dave Edmunds said. As a result, search crews ended up in the wrong area.

Brennan’s mother said he believes he was gone only one or two nights, and doesn’t remember even going camping or much else, because “most of it was a blur to him.”

“It’s going to take a while to get everything out,” Toby Hawkins said. “This is how he approaches all situations.”

The couple said their son was born prematurely, and they described him as immature and a little slow, but not mentally disabled.

Delirious, but unscathed“Brennan continues to amaze us,” Toby Hawkins said. “I thought that he was the most ill-prepared out of our five children to deal with it, and now I think he was maybe the best prepared.” [Except for teaching him to avoid strangers, a little too well- Wordsmith]

Brennan had hiked more than five miles into the mountains to the spot where searcher Forrest Nunley found him Tuesday.

“I turned a corner and there was a kid standing in the middle of the trail. He was all muddy and wet,” said Nunley, who dialed 911 on his cell phone and said he was lucky to find a signal.
“He was a little delirious. I sat him down and gave him a little food,” Nunley said.



Dennis Prager's point in citing this story is that we have grown into a paranoid society on "stranger danger".

According to his news sources, the 11 year old boy was offered water by his rescuers, and still wasn't sure if it was ok to take the water. And according to the boy's father, he might have been found sooner, but hid from searchers because of the idea of "stranger danger".

How likely is it that strangers ever pose any danger to you at all? Statistically, think about how many people you come across in your daily round-abouts: From pumping gas at the station....riding the bus....going to the mall....to waiting at the checkout....

Out of all those people, how many would harm you as opposed to being helpful or neutral toward you?

I understand that children are vulnerable to adults; clearly, they are at a physical and mental disadvantage should an adult seek to harm a child. But what are the statistical chances? Is it really helpful to make a child terrified of all strangers under all circumstances? Is it possible to better equip them to recognize situational distinctions? At a very young age, perhaps not.


I'm sure we've all seen the 20/20 experiment where they set kids up.

In one scenario, it is stressed, stressed, stressed to the children, under no circumstance should they play with a gun; that they should instead leave it alone and go tell an adult. Yet what happens? The hidden camera catches kids finding the planted gun and playing and aiming it at each other (in the same program, Mr. Prager also mentioned how in Freakonomics, the authors mention kids are statistically in more danger from being drowned in swimming pools in the home, than they are from being killed by a loaded handgun in the home).

In another scenario after having been warned not to go anywhere with a stranger, parents confident that they have sufficiently drilled into their child the idea that under no circumstance are they to go anywhere with a stranger, become deflated and horrified as they witness, via hidden camera, their child being lured away by the ABC "stranger" who asks the kids to help him find his dog, and shows them a picture.


This shows how vulnerable little kids are and how many just haven't developed the ability to discern yet, who's likely to be friend and who might be foe. Still, statistically, how likely is it that a child will be harmed by a stranger, when you think of all the strangers (practically the whole world!) out there and all the numbers of children. Out of all those numbers, how many kids a year actually fall victim to predatory strangers?

It's funny sometimes.....You see a cute kid, and all you want to do is smile and say hi or give him something harmless (like an origami model you just folded) and he freaks out and runs screaming to his mom. Sometimes, the kid's just shy and a natural scaredy-cat; but other times, you know it's behavior that's been drilled into him. I guess I should just consider myself fortunate the kid hasn't been trained to pepper spray strangers who try talking to him.

4 Comments:

Blogger Mark said...

That is something that I have had in my mind for some time but i lacked the words to articulate it. thanks ffor the insight.

Friday, June 24, 2005 5:38:00 AM  
Blogger Daffy76 said...

Good insight. This story has bothered me since I heard about it. One thing especially creepy about it is that one of the first things this kid wanted when he got back to safety was his Pokemon cards. His mother is even quoted as saying that got him to safety. Yikes! He wasn't concerned about getting back to his family and civilization--just if his Pokemon cards had come in. What kind of weirdos are we raising?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005 11:23:00 AM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Welcome daffy...I do believe my readership has increased to 2. Lol.

I didn't really follow this story that closely; but what this is what was printed in the article I cited from:

"The couple said their son was born prematurely, and they described him as immature and a little slow, but not mentally disabled."

So there you have it. The boy sounds like a bit of a simpleton.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 3:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Walker Everett said...

I''m familiar with this subject too

Saturday, December 17, 2005 5:51:00 AM  

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