Children of addiction

We decided to walk in downtown Rapid City yesterday. We had some items we were donating to the Hope Center so were right there. West Boulevard and East Boulevard are a mile apart, so you can park anywhere on St. Joseph or Main Street and walk a loop for a 2-mile walk, our usual these days. With cooler temperatures and a bit of snow combined with having passed Labor Day, we figured that the streets wouldn’t be filled with tourists taking pictures of themselves with the statues of presidents and we were right about that. We walk with masks, but only pull them up when meeting others as we walk.

Most of the people who were out on the streets during the time that we walked were employees of downtown shops standing outside and smoking. In the cool air, we could see the smoke rising from a distance as we approached walking briskly. Somehow it reminded me of how attitudes towards smoking have changed over my lifetime. When I was growing up smoking was much more common. The dangers of smoking were less known and big tobacco companies were working hard to suppress information about the connections between smoking and cancer, heart disease and a host of other health problems. Neither of my parents smoked, but the break room at my father’s shop was filled with smoke at each coffee break and during the lunch hour. The trucks and pickups had full ash trays and it was common for use to be in the homes of smokers when we played with our friends. There were a lot of professionals who smoked. We knew doctors and lawyers and teachers who were smokers. For some reason the ministers in our church preferred pipes. We had a college professor who was a master of using the process of filling and preparing a pipe to smoke as a prop for his lectures. He’d light a match and hold it to his pipe and we’d watch to see if the match would burn down to his fingers while he lectured. I don’t remember him ever actually lighting the pipe during a lecture, but he definitely smoked it as he walked around the campus. Although I have never been a smoker, I’ve inhaled my share of second hand smoke.

Times have changed. The information about the dangers of smoking have been clearly illustrated. But tobacco is highly addictive and it isn’t easy to quite the habit. Children of those who are so addicted face dangers. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of health problems for developing babies, including preterm birth, low birth weight, and birth defects of the mouth and lip. Smoking during and after pregnancy also increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Smoking during pregnancy resulted in more than 1,000 infant deaths each year. Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, and ear infections.

Smoking, of course, isn’t the only addiction that has negative health impacts on the health of infants and children. There is no known safe amount or time to drink alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol crossed the blood-brain barrier and both directly and indirectly affects the developing child. A wide spectrum of disorders result from alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Combined with tobacco use the dangers to the child are even more serious.

There are plenty of other drugs that people consume that cause harm to children. The stories of children of addiction are all to common.

Of course there are children born with disabilities that have not been caused by conscious decisions of their parents. The lifestyles of parents are only some of the factors that have effects on children. And children with disabilities have much to contribute to our communities. All children with disabilities deserve our love and care and the supports and services that they require to live full and meaningful lives. Their contributions should be recognized. Their value should be honored.

All are diminished whenever a child suffers, regardless of the cause of that suffering. Systems of care and nurture are needed. Children need advocates and protectors as they grow and develop. Cycles of addiction can be interrupted and those born to parents with addictions can grow to have meaningful lives.

Today, we pray for all of the children who suffer because of decisions that their parents have made. They are innocent victims of poor choices.

Dear God, we know and love the song that declares, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.” We know that your love for the children of this world is never-ending and that you care for each one. And when we think of the children of this world and your great love for them, we know that your heart must be constantly breaking for the suffering of innocents. How it must grieve you to witness parents who make poor choices and ingest toxins that harm children. Children growing up breathing smoke must bring tears to your eyes.

When we pray that you would bless and protect the children, we know that there are children whose lives are at risk and who suffer through no fault of their own. We pray that you would open the hearts and minds of parents so that fewer children would suffer. Help us to become teachers of the truth about the effects of addiction. Strengthen us that we might work to provide treatment of addictions so that the suffering of children can be prevented. Inspire us to change systems of health care in ways that provide support to children and parents and treatment for their symptoms.

We offer our prayers for children who are born with birth defects and who live with disabilities. May their lives be treasured and their abilities recognized. May we learn to recognize them as vital members of our communities regardless of the causes of their differences.

We know that you are with all who suffer. We thank you for your presence. May our prayers inspire action in your holy name. Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!