Where Is The Compassion?
The news out of Walt Disney World this week has been awful, a toddler attacked and drowned by an alligator as he paddled in the water.
It's horrendous and I haven't been able to get it out of my head because it could have been me. When I studied law I learnt the saying "there but for the grace of God I go", meaning that it could have been me in those circumstances if life had gone a bit differently. I have walked along the beach at the Grand Floridian and I have spent time with my family on the beach at the Polynesian resort, the next door neighbour of the Grand Flo. We sat on the beach at night to watch the fireworks over at the Magic Kingdom, my children played on the sand and I'm fairly sure one of them walked down towards the water's edge, but I called them back mainly because I didn't want them to get wet. I wasn't thinking about gator attacks one little bit. But it could have happened to us, it could have happened to anyone. It was a tragic accident that could happen to anybody, maybe not those circumstances but tragedy could strike for any of us.
These parents were on holiday, they let their guard down, they relaxed a little. They let their child play in the water, something that they probably thought would be fun for him to do. Maybe he was on his first holiday, maybe this was the first time his mum had felt that he was old enough to have a little splash in the water. They made a mistake, one they will never be able to forgive themselves for, so they don't need sanctimonious strangers hiding behind their screens, making judgemental and often hideous comments about their parenting. They need compassion and love and time to grieve the loss of their baby.
We all let our guard down on holiday, we relax a little and don't expect bad things to happen, we definitely don't expect them to happen at Disney. I reckon there's not a parent out there who hasn't had at least one time where they've thought "I messed up, I was lucky that didn't end badly." Whether it was momentarily losing their child in the supermarket because they've wandered away to look at something, or a bad moment driving, or maybe a little one has fallen and hurt themselves. We've all been there. This tragedy could have happened to anyone.
As for blame, I don't think it's fair for anybody to be blaming anyone. The parents made a mistake. They didn't know it wasn't safe to go in the water, maybe they didn't see the signs about no swimming or maybe they took those signs at their literal meaning and thought it was ok to paddle and not swim. Maybe they had given their little one some freedom and were watching him from close by to make sure he was safe, not even thinking about gators. I'm certain they wouldn't have let him anywhere near the water if they had known the risks. Is it Disney's fault? No, I don't think it is. It's Florida, there's an abundance of wildlife roaming free out there, I've seen gators a few times - both on Disney property and elsewhere. Disney do their best to capture and remove any wildlife that poses a threat, whether that is gators in the waterways or snakes on the paths. But the gators move around the waterways with ease. A Florida friend told me that they often travel through the storm drains and can travel miles, and that makes it hard for Disney, or anywhere else, to keep track of all of them.
Whenever you visit anywhere tropical you are going to be surrounded by wildlife and it's good to have an understanding of what's around you and how to stay safe. That is the one and only lesson to learn from this.
This poor family are going through hell right now and they don't need to be judged by anyone. When I kiss my kids goodnight tonight I will secretly be thinking "thank you life for not letting me fuck up today," Tragedy could be waiting just around the corner for any of us, so keep your judgemental thoughts to yourself, because tomorrow it could be you that is so desperately in need of compassion.
Rest In Peace little Lane