As a rule, I try not to let my children watch the news. That's a difficult thing to do in a house where the news pays the bills. Sometimes, I fall short of that goal in order to meet the demands of both responsibilities: parenting children and managing a newsroom.
Sunday night, my seven-year-old daughter and I were working on her second grade biography project together. She's profiling the life of George Washington Carver, an excellent choice for a girl who loves peanuts. Instead of working in silence, we worked with the news in the background because severe weather was pounding parts of the viewing area and I wanted to keep a close eye on our coverage.
We became very involved in the project talking about Carver's impact and before we knew it programming had segued into 60 Minutes. 60 Minutes profiled homeless school children in Florida ... children who were living in motels, some whose families had to split up to stay at different shelters. My daughter became captivated listening to a child describe what it felt like when dad had to carry a sign on the street begging for work. At that moment, I had to explain to her that these children were basically living on the streets because their families fell on hard times.
My daughter asked, "That would never happen to us, mom, right?" I told her what I thought was best... the truth. The families on TV probably thought it would never happen to them. I explained that's why it's important to help others when you can, appreciate what you have and try to plan for the unexpected in the future. Obviously, it's not the kind of story line covered by her favorite shows on Disney or Nickelodeon. And it was a lot to process for a girl whose only thought was about peanuts just moments before the story aired.
It turns out more than 12 million viewers saw the faces of these homeless children. According to CBS, the story attracted hundreds of offers of help not just from people in the U.S. but from other countries as well. I'll be anxious to tell my little girl about the outpouring of support for these families. While it's good for her to get a dose of reality by seeing the story, it will be even better for her to know that something good came out of it.
Aysu Basaran is the busy mom of three girls and assistant news director for WRAL-TV.