There is a fine line between watching out for one's neighbors and being a busybody. No one likes a person who intrudes into the affairs of others without good reason.
But when small children are involved, that fine line moves. When one has a reasonable suspicion child neglect or abuse is occurring, a moral imperative exists to do something about it.
It happened in the wee hours of Monday morning, when Wheeling police received a 911 call from someone who believed small children had been left in their home unattended by an adult. When police arrived at the Eagle Court residence at about 3:30 a.m., they were unable to make contact with anyone inside.
Neighbors told police children were left alone often at the home. And neighbors reported hearing banging noises coming from inside.
With help from Wheeling firefighters, police entered the home. There, they found two children, one 2 years old, the other 4. The 2-year-old was banging her head against a door.
Police arrested the children's mother, who told them she had fallen asleep in a nearby apartment. Officers estimated the children had been left alone for about two hours.
Anyone with small children knows not watching them for even a few minutes can have tragic consequences. In this situation, it appears luck was on the youngsters' side.
But the same thing has happened before, neighbors and the children's grandfather told officers.
Even the most conscientious mothers and fathers know there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We all make mistakes.
When conscious decisions are made to take risks with children's safety, neglect is involved, however.
The 911 caller may well have kept harm from coming to the two Wheeling children Monday morning. In all likelihood, he or she struggled with the decision to call police. Thank heaven the children's welfare was the deciding factor.
That should be how all of us handle concerns about children's safety. Again, if there is reasonable cause for concern, call the police.