Have you ever come across a group of juveniles whose fundraising practices consist of canvassing commercial hubs, or expressway entry ramps for their “marching band,” “sports team,” or “dance troupe”? If not, surely you’ve run into at least one youngster offering $5 candy bars for some sort of “worthy cause”. Unless you have sleet running through your veins, you’re bound to experience a complexity of thoughts and emotions: Shame, confusion, sorrow, frustration – there’s always a significant level of distress when children are involved.

What’s worse? The fact that children are being robbed of their childhood by spending day after day peddling the streets; that their lives are repeatedly placed in jeopardy; or that it is their parents/guardians that are exploiting them? This tragic phenomenon occurs virtually everywhere, not excluding this ‘powerful’ nation of ours. All over America, youth are being pimped out by the very people expected to protect them, while the rest of us observe with one blind eye & the other, judgmental.

Many of us were taught at an early age that one must give to receive. So, whatever happened to the acquisition of goods or services in exchange for monetary compensation? The days of bake sales and car washes are coming to an end in favor of the deadening, disgraceful act of begging. Youth are being taught to cut out the “middle man” and go straight for the pocket. The journey that instills positive work ethics and ingenuity does not exist which threatens to mentally/emotionally cripple these unfortunate youngsters – as well as generations to come.

True, many organizations depend on the charity of others, but what reputable establishments would consent to minors endangering their very lives by street peddling?

We must question the validity of such conduct. For instance, a marching band panhandling in the middle of a busy intersection would be much better served by receiving donations via a public concert performance than to approach moving vehicles with buckets brandished to collect cold hard cash. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this fiasco is the grown-folks who over-see the freeloading in a pimp-like fashion. And just like a pimp, these merciless adults have been accused of reaping the lion share of the profits. Vile and despicable, predators such as these understand human nature and therefore prey on an emotion they’ve been entirely deprived of: Compassion.

A number of Bostonians voiced their views as a result of an insightful blog post that addressed this issue  years ago:

“Of course, there is a group of adults exploiting these children and essentially stealing away their childhood.

For me, the worst part is that everyone sees this going on… EVERYONE…  And what are our policemen and politicians doing to protect these kids? Nothing….. It’s one thing for adults, who feel they have no alternative, to panhandle.  It is another thing to exploit young children and endanger their health and their lives.”

Legitimate or not, all parties involved should be held liable for the well being of children and adolescents. We – the onlookers – passively condone these practices by choosing to ignore them. Obviously, law enforcement has not made abolishing such activities a priority, but the rest of us can make an effort to help our children. You can start by notifying your nearby child protection agency/advocacy group, or write letter of concern to your local ombudsperson or newspaper.

As sappy as it may sound, the children really are the future:

“We have a powerful potential in out youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”

-Mary McLeod Bethune

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