In my travels, I often feel a sense of despair. I prefer to tell the lighthearted stories of my adventures, but sometimes it is necessary to balance the picture.

When I first began working in Europe, I was cautioned not to interact with the Romani women and children (colloquially known as Gypsies) who are commonly seen begging. It was explained that if they fail to extract enough money, they will be punished by the equivalent of a pimp. So, for their safety, I should avoid talking to them at all costs.

One afternoon the kids and I were sitting on a Lithuanian curb, eating ice cream cones, when I was approached by a woman with two toddlers. Without saying a word, I shook my head no, and she moved on. A minute later, my five-year-old thrust her cone in my hand and said, “Hold this! I’m going to tell her that we do speak English, and you are being mean!”

I explained the situation to her and her four-year-old brother, watching as sad comprehension flooded their little faces. Daughter asked, “Can I at least give them my ice cream cone?”

In Brussels, we were approached in a restaurant by a four-year-old boy. I could see his mother and grandmother watching from the entrance, and a man standing nearby.

Soon, a three-year-old girl and her two-year-old brother stood at the end of our table, waiting expectantly. Their eyes were sincere, and their tiny bellies were hungry. Daughter asked, “Can we sneak them some French fries?”

As I contemplated the dilemma of hungry children being used as pawns, policemen made their way toward us. The children were removed from the premises, but not without an ugly fight. With tears in her eyes, my little girl pushed her food away and said, “I don’t feel hungry anymore.”

The next evening, I was walking with my teenage daughter. Darkness had settled, and the cobblestone streets were piled with trash awaiting morning pickup. As we approached a closed bakery, I saw a woman tearing into the bags. She handed something to the small boy standing next to her. Big brown eyes glistening with excitement, he raised a straight-from-the-trash croissant into the air so that we could see the treasure.

A week later, I was sleeping with the windows open in a Berlin apartment. At 4:30, I was awakened by a crying baby. I assumed she was in an apartment below, and the sound was floating up to my window. An hour later, I woke to the same crying, only louder and more desperate. I sent up sleepy prayers that she would find comfort from her mother.

At 7:30, the cries were uncontrollable. I stood at the window and thought I must be imagining that the sound came from a nearby row of dumpsters. I dressed quickly so that I could investigate. Glancing out the window, I saw a young boy lead a tiny little girl from a dumpster. She was still crying.

Police officers were arriving on the scene, so I waited to see how it would be handled. It was then that I noticed across the street were two Romani mothers with a total of eight kids. The policemen told them to leave, and the little girl was scolded by her mother for crying ... for three hours ... alone ... inside a dumpster. The girl only cried louder, which resulted in more anger from the mother, but no one removed her from the situation.

I don’t know how to solve the problem of international hurting children, but I can do something about the children in my community. I would like to encourage you to do something too. Please, consider donating to your local food pantry, homeless shelter, or other organization. Or get involved on a deeper level through advocacy. Typically, children suffer because of a selfish adult. I hope that many unselfish adults will step up and help balance the scales in favor of the children.

-Syndicated Columnist Ginger Claremohr is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook, find her on the web: www.claremohr.com, or contact ginger@claremohr.com