The recent revelation in the news today have given me pause for thought. (What else is new?) What revelation you may ask. That those around us are may not be as they appear. A man by the name of Pedro Hernandez, not to be confused with any baseball players of any era, has been questioned in the missing child case of the 70s. Hernandez’s guilt or innocence has yet to be proven but the story made me question for a moment how I think or refuse to think about others. Little Ethan Patz was a mere 6 years old in 1979 when he didn’t return home from his first and last walk to the school bus. This moment in time started, or highly contributed to the consciousness around missing or exploited children. He was white, from middle class roots and was “oh so cute”. When many of us were little bunchkins in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, we were allowed to run free exploring the in’s and outs of neighborhoods. We would zip off on our bike for hours and hours (without crash helmets), eat anything the neighbors offered, often hang out with unsavory characters and not come home until the sun set or we could hear a parent yelling our name. That is how before computers, cable television or parents actually talking to a child about something meaningful, we learned about life. Yes, there was the occasional punch in the noodle or the bike fall that knocked your breath out or the food that gave you a tummy ache and sometimes even a groping hand or two but that’s a later discussion. But did we ever, ever think people were evil? I did a little random online search and found hundreds of quotes from neighbors and friends of convicted serial killers, slashers, pedophiles, cannibals and all around evil doers and not one single person, including wives knew them to be anything but a nice neighbor, a good neighbor, super nice guy, very friendly to me, always smiled when I saw him. As taught to me by my first children reader, we will use he as the dominant pronoun. He watered our lawn, walked our dog, gave our kids a ride to school, watched our house when we were gone. The degenerate often has parents who care, children who love them, a spouse who adores, intimates at church, a job and last but not least the worries and cares of everyday work and home life. Wait a minute, this sounds like 90% of all the people I’ve ever met. If a wife or child doesn’t know someone is a bad seed, how should I know they are? You see, it is the responsibility of all of us to know those around us. I don’t mean snooping around through folks trash or searching web sites for criminal records. I mean getting to know others. Sense how they make you feel, converse even if you don’t talk on a deep personal level. Let’s protect the children around us, not with more personal physical restriction but with awareness. You know when someone gives you a creepy feeling. The old adage, “I wouldn’t want to be in a dark alley with him” has some merit. You know when someone looks at a child a second too long and all the other odd behaviors. Let’s be vigilante of” the weird” around us even if they have a house, spouse and kids. Even relatives or educators. With more consciousness should come less abuse and with less abuse comes real safety. Not the smothering bubble of individual protection but the larger cloak of community safety.