The presence of knowing

Knowledge is a dubious gift.

The problem with knowledge is that once something is known, it cannot be unknown. Even though we forget and often can’t recall what happened yesterday, some part of our brain still retains the memory of everything we have ever encountered.

Much of what we do and remember is automatic and linked to our survival and basic needs. Dementia and Alzheimer’s aside, it takes little effort to recall where we live, work, and play on a regular basis. I am grateful to remember my loved ones and special times shared with them. The memories I have a problem with are those when I witness the ugliness we create in life.

The current ugly in my life is the knowledge that people leave their babies and small children to die alone locked in vehicles. This summer, I have read at least five articles where infants and small children died of heatstroke inside a car or van. All of their stories yank my heart right out of its ignorant resting place. For example, a day-care worker “forgot” that she left a three-year-old strapped to his car seat in the van at the end of a field trip. I really would have rather not known this. My imagination has a field day taking on the suffering of others, and I wondered why I needed to know.

I tried to imagine what it must have felt like to die like that, so I purposely sat in my car one day when the temperature was about 85 degrees. I parked in the shade, turned off the engine and rolled up all the windows.

Within five minutes, a mild panic settled into my throat and I felt that certain restlessness that I was not in a good situation. Thick and heavy heated air went in and out of my lungs, but it was not enough. Sweat oozed from my skin as my body began its futile attempt to cool me off. Nausea settled in my stomach. Within ten minutes, I had to open my door and let myself out.

And my true suffering had not even begun.

The babies and children I have read about suffered much more. They could not free themselves. The three-year-old who was left in the day care van might have been able to get out of a car seat, but most likely he had been trained NOT to. He sat there sweating, waiting, and hoping for someone to release him. I cannot imagine the distress in their little minds, although I can imagine how I would have felt, what I would have thought, and how alone I would have been with my despair. In my ending, I felt total anguish at the betrayal of trust. I had been entrusted to someone’s care and they had broken that trust.

I think that before anyone gets to have a driver’s license, he or she must endure at least ten minutes of what it is like to be locked in a hot car and not be able to free themselves.

The question again came to me, though: Why had my attention been drawn to these articles? Why did I need this knowledge? I know not to leave a child locked in a car under any circumstances. When I am driving with a child, everything about that driving is with the knowledge that I have precious cargo on board. I could have easily lived the rest of my life without knowing the suffering those children endured.

My answer is metaphysical. God/Spirit/All-That-Is/Universal Consciousness is always with us, connected at the source of our being, even in our dying. I am connected to those children, just as I am to every living soul in the universe, through God.

In this moment, my presence is with every child who is suffering and letting them know they are not alone.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

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15 Responses to “The presence of knowing”

  1. Brother James Says:

    This post made me shiver. But I think you’re exactly right: we are deeply connected to those who suffer.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, James — I have heard it said but can never verify the source that Jesus could “hold” the suffering of millions. I can only trust that those who die from the stupidity of others awaken in the embrace of eternal love.

  2. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Barbara –

    This is a heartbreaking — yet necessary — post. What you’ve shared here is a very real and present danger. And oh-so-preventable.

    People who drive—legally—must be licensed.
    People who carry guns—legally—must be licensed.
    People who practice medicine—legally—must be licensed.
    People who practice law—legally—must be licensed.


    …there is no licensing required to raise, or care for, a child. And children—our future—are the most precious gift that humanity has.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — if people had to be licensed to have children and meet requiremens of good child care, the human race would come close to extinction. I have a less-than-charitable view of people who allow harm to come to children — specifically, harm that can be avoided. We have to remember that children who survive abuse and ignorant parents are the future adults who will run the world.

  3. Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Barbara – I am normally a sweet, loving, kind, and thoughtful person.


    …when it comes to harming children, the elderly, or animal cruelty — I am a force to be reckoned with.

  4. Ann Marquette Says:

    I can never understand why anyone would leave a child or a pet in a hot car. The problem is that our mind, our society has become numb and ignores all such warnings; even though so often in the news and the mind says “it won’t happen to me!”

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      I know, Ann. Somehow, we think we are exempt from the laws of the universe. I believe our connection to the suffering of others is what makes us realize that, yes, anything in life can happen to anyone.

  5. jeffstroud Says:


    I certainly didn’t need to read this, or did I? I know how you feel I have read and heard these stories, and they make me shudder with dread!
    You have taken it to another level, trying to experience said dreadful way…

    I have often thought of the people who have to live with the fact that they leave their children and pets in cars when it is hot, or at any time, and they say they forgot. How can one for get a loved one, that is helpless?

    My concern driving up to Vermont a few weeks ago was because I had to take my dogs, the weather or rather the heat was over 100 degrees, and the car/van never really cools off with the AC, so I kept putting off the journey. My concern was always about my companions, safe travel, comfortableness, being able to leave them for a few moments for rest stops…

    Our Oneness allows us to share in the fear as well as the Love.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Jeff – Yes, sometimes I dread reading the headlines on MSN or Fox News. For a long time, I did not read any newspapers because the bad news affected me so badly. In the past year, though, it has become easier to bear and I think that is due to my allowing a stronger connection with God and not only seeing, but knowing and feeling, that we are not alone.

  6. sandiwhite Says:

    Barbara, I see thoughtless behavior in people many times a week, teen-agers texting while driving, people who ignore stop signs, passing under unsafe conditions, ect…There is always the chance they’ll be taking some one out when they hit the car in the other lane, drive into a tree or simply lose control and roll it off the highway. They know they’re taking a chance with their own lives and apparently don’t much give a flip. I guess it doesn’t matter much to them. But the babies and toddlers left in locked vehicles tear at my heart, they are victims of thoughtless and uncaring adults. There will be the nursery worker who “forgot”, the mother who will say, “it was only for a minute”. It happens here on a fairly regular basis, we usually just hear about the deaths. I work in the Sun, I have worked in greenhouses, I know first hand what a human adult can tolerate, and a little one is much more vulnerable. I can take myself out of harms way. The little ones have no choice, no chance. There is no excuse plausible enough for anyone to fall back when child or animal cruelty is discovered.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Sandi — I know. There are many, many people who lovingly care for their children, who drive safely, who are aware and mindful of other living creatures, but they don’t make front page news and certainly are not on the list of “read me’s” on I have heard of a few “Good News” papers that had headlines like “Mother drops off twins safely at day care for 365 days in a row!” or “Father helps children with homework even on the weekends.” Unfortunately, funding was nonexistent and they went out of business. My heart goes to mush and I want to save every child who is in danger of being harmed and I can’t.

  7. Ronda Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with your conclusion. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear about child abuse. I am a mother of 4 young boys and I can’t even begin to imagine them being physically abused nor left in a hot vehicle to die.

    But I want to pose this question to you…since Christ died for those very abusers and has forgiven them, can you do that? Yes, I know it is evil at it’s very root to abuse a child. I agree it is meanness at it’s very core. But can you love those abusers? Can you forgive them even though they may never ask for forgiveness? Can you bless them, do good for them and pray for them?

    As Christians we are asked to do the impossible, love the unloveable, forgive the unforgiveable and bless those who spit in our face.

    The only reason I’m posting this is because you have posted how awful those types of situations are for the children involved. I would agree. But I’m drawing the Christ-like line in the dirt for you to ponder.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Ronda — thanks for taking the time to comment. Yes, forgiveness and loving those who cause harm is difficult. Can I find the same love that Jesus did for these people? I aspire to. My purpose for writing this particular piece is to send a message to the souls of those children who I read about and let them know, I am thinking of them. If I am thinking of them, most certainly God is. When I think if them now, my heart goes out into the universe and I send a message to any and every child who in this moment is suffering, is alone, is afraid, and I am hoping that God is carrying that message to them saying: “someone is thinking of you and loving you right now.” I wish I could rescue them all . . . and that includes those who cause them harm.

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