That post generated some wonderful commentary on Facebook and in my email inbox and I thank everyone for contributing their points of view. I find it fascinating that several cultures, including Sweden, Turkey and Armenia, have adopted an "it takes a village to raise a child" mentality. Under that rubric, parents are able to quickly assess a person's character and, having done so, to feel comfortable allowing that person to care for (i.e., not to kidnap or bring harm to) a child during the time it takes for the parent to, say, use the restroom.
Perhaps it boils down to a perception of risk issue. Whether and to what extent the perceived threat is real or stems instead from media fear mongering, I cannot say. I do know that in Sweden one rarely reads of a domestic child kidnapping or murder. Whereas in the United States it seems that one reads a scary headline about a missing or murdered child nearly every day. In recent years, the U.S. government has even implemented a system to quickly notify the public when a child has gone missing, and it is used quite often. Personally, I would never leave a child with a stranger even for the time it takes to go to the bathroom. That goes for Sweden, the U.S., or anywhere else in the world. I know that it's statistically unlikely that the person sitting next to me at a coffee shop would kidnap or harm a child but I still perceive a risk, a risk that I would be unwilling to take.
At the same time, I admire the Swedes for their ability to trust in one another. (And not just on this issue. Examples abound and some will surely make their way into future posts.) While I will never reach the point where I would entrust the care of a child to a stranger, I hope that, among the many lessons from living here, I will gradually learn to have just a little more faith in my fellow humans.