Friday, January 06, 2012

Making Change

How do you make a situation change?

We all say, if we have eyes that work: "Something ought to be done there."

But what can WE actually do?

Ok, here's my situation.

We have a big, dark parking lot at church. And we have lots and lots of children at church. And we have lots of evening services and also social functions involving finger foods and fellowship after a service or program.

While the parents eat and fellowship, the children play. And invariably some of them play in the parking lot even though there are lots of other places to run around, such as the play shelter, ball field, and sidewalks.

Many times, I've gotten in the car as little people went darting here and there, barely visible in the darkness. It happens in broad daylight too, but is obviously worse at night. I've nearly had heart failure a few times and believe me, I back up with extreme caution and sometimes I tell Jenny to get out and make sure the coast is clear.

I've talked to Paul about this but he always acted like it was just one of a long list of things, like Steven's messy room and the weeds by the hedge, that I get worked into a stew about and if he gives me a little sympathy it'll soon pass and he won't actually have to do anything.

Yesterday a friend of mine talked to me about the same problem, as she almost ran over a toddler and later two girls darted out right in front of her from behind a parked car.

You know, ultimately this comes down to parents being responsible for their own children, but if any of us backed over a child, we'd never forgive ourselves. I know some parents are more relaxed and/or oblivious than others, and I am still finding out things I should have known but completely missed when the kids were little. So I know how easily these things can go on unawares.


What are my options?
a) do nothing and pray hard and trust God.
b) go talk to all the parents one by one and re-affirm my reputation as an interfering nag.
c) put something in the church bulletin and hope everyone listens.
d) try to persuade the trustees to bring it up at the next business meeting and tell everyone sternly to keep the kids off the parking lot.
e) try to persuade a minister to give a stern pre-sermon admonition.
f) patrol the parking lot with a pitchfork during every finger-food event.
g) wait for a child to get run over, and then surely no child will play in the parking lot, ever again. Problem solved.
h) post about it and hope everyone in church reads my blog, but I'm sure they don't so that probably won't work.

This applies to a lot more than just kids in the parking lot.

There are just an awful lot of situations in the world that ought to be changed. Generally, people think "someone" ought to do something and if they come to me with that, I say, "If you noticed the problem, it's your sign from God that YOU are supposed to do something."

But it's not always that easy, and I'll bet you could name three situations right now where you would love to change things but don't have a clue how plus you have no authority/power in the situation. And you could name three people who are always out agitating for change and driving everyone crazy.

I can think of a (very) few areas where my action eventually resulted in change. In almost every case, this was how it worked:
1. Mention it to the person in charge
2. Shut up.
3. Pray hard.
4. Wait an awfully long time.

In this case, I'm really not sure that anyone is "in charge" of the parking lot.

How about you? Have you ever changed a situation, and how did you do it?

Quote of the Day:
"41 degrees and drizzling on Christmas Day--that's how it's supposed to be!"
--Byran, Paul's nephew, on the joy of being in Oregon for Christmas


  1. Dorcas, I understand you completely. There are always little children running around our parking lot and it scares me very badly. I read your column in the paper and I enjoy it.

  2. BUSTED, Jenny a.k.a Pat Lewis! But thanks for reading my column!

  3. Dorcas, because of my work, Ruth and I have had to move around the country and attend a lot of different churches, some fairly conservative and some much less so. But one "innovation" I thought was a great improvement was having some women on trustees board. It makes a big difference because often women have different concerns.

    This is not a trivial concern. We have a wonderful family that adopts Down's Syndrome children. It takes the whole church to watch out for them but sometimes one will get loose and appear behind your car as you back out.

  4. Of course, you could have the trustees come with rules and then decide how new members are informed of them. Oh yes, you will need to post the rules on signs in the lot so visitors will know them. Plus a form for all drivers to sign stating they have read and understand them and have informed all of their passengers over the age of 1.
    Actually their is an easier solution for you. Since you will need to either back into your space OR back out, simply back in. There are usually less children running loose in the lot when you are arriving then when you are leaving.

  5. you could also have a large yard light installed, but that is a significant cost.

  6. What would happen if you were to enlist the youth to do parking lot patrol every time there is a church function? I would guess it would get boring, eventually, AND they may get so upset with children daring in and out they will voice their displeasure with no thought of using any tact, unlike their preacher's wife! Once they get upset, it might work! Just a thought...Sandra

  7. This is probably a problem at most Mennonite churches. I've thought about it many times. One man in our church often does his "visiting" outside after services. Then I found out that years ago he witnessed a child getting run over in a parking lot. It effected him deeply. He's not being anti-social. He's quietly watching out for the children.

  8. I know it is frustrating to not be able to fix everything. I settle for the small stuff, like getting a local school to change an incorrect apostrophe they had painted on thier wall. In that case a letter did the trick.

  9. Oh dear, realized I just misspelled their!!

  10. I have similar frustrations at our little church. I know how easy it is to get distracted as parents I have 3 under the age of 4 and sometimes at church I just want to sit and visit and not worry if my two year old is running outside or playing in the toilet etc. However, I think when we as parents have children we need to keep in mind that this it is our responsibility to keep track of our children at church. I have had first-hand experience of the terrible things that can happen at church when children are left alone. I'm not thinking we should rule over them as adults, but there must be a proactive attention to our children. The consequences for the lack attention to this is in my opinion to severe to be ignored. I think parents are a little oblivious about church play. There are going to always be those parents that just don't care, or think your being over-protective, but I say "oh well". I still say parents these days can't be too attentive. I am probably considered the bossy mom of the church lol ;-), but in my opinion it's ok at least my children are safe, and by my children I mean all children that I come into contact with. My advise to you do what it takes to keep the children safe. Ok, I'll get off my soap box now.;-)

  11. Any parent who has lost a child would probably say that no cost that can prevent a child from being hurt is too great; whether it's mom and dad giving up some visiting time in order to keep track of children, or installing a light in the parking lot, or the driver always asking someone who is outside the vehicle to watch for them...or learning to back into a space. We have multiple announcements about this at our church. (Unattended children)And the same thing keeps happening. (Children running wildly around) But those who see the problem have to keep warning those of us who are blind.
    -sometimes blind mom of 4 under 6

  12. We used to have the parking lot problem, and finally, as a church, we agreed to ALL back in when we arrived. Seems it would be better to keep the kiddies off the parking lot, but since that ain't happenin' this was our best solution. (Kids generally wait until AFTER church to go play.) Works well--at least you can see them now. -PC in VA

  13. We've had this worry at our church also. We attend in the middle of a busy town, so there are other risks involved as well. Our children appear to be some of only a handful not allowed to leave the building without their parents, so they look & feel rather over protected and silly, but....

    I discovered a couple of years ago that Walmart sells a sensor/alarm you can install on the back bumper that lets you know if something is behind you while backing up. I believe it was made for the purpose of avoiding running over small children or pets, but also works for bicycles left unattended in poorly chosen places. It wouldn't fix the problem, but would help ensure you wouldn't be the one to run over a wandering tyke.

    It's a bummer parents AND children aren't a little more careful in this situation. I know it's inconvenient and feels burdensome at times, but so would be loss and regret if there were a serious injury or death.

  14. Thanks for all the ideas. I didn't know this was such a universal issue.