Today I became engulfed in anger. I have not been really, truly angry in a long time. I am okay with being as angry as I am because it has been accompanied by blind terror and a broken heart. The question of how I got here is answered by telling a story I wish I did not own.
I was leaving our home. As I backed out of our driveway I stopped at the edge to double check that everything was clear. We live about a block and a half away from a very busy street so I am always careful. As I looked back into my rear view mirror, I saw a little girl, maybe five years old, running down the sidewalk across from our home completely naked.
That is when terror hit. My first thought was to look and see if she was being chased and I changed my direction to match hers. I put my passenger window down as I caught up with her. I yelled at her to stop running while staying in my car so that I would not scare her. I looked in the same direction as her and saw a big group of kids about a block ahead. I asked her where her mom was. She said at home. I asked if she knew where her house was. She said yes. I told her to turn around and go home. I followed her at a close distance and saw the big kids rushing back our way. When she stopped to cross the street, I signaled a man on a bike to stop so he would not run her over. A boy who was maybe 9 or 10 stopped in the driveway of the house she was running to. The man on the bike yelled, “Oh my God, get your sister inside and get some clothes on her!” I said, “She was down the block and I was following her to be sure she got home safely.” He went about his way as I parked and started up the drive way. Two other kids joined us as I asked where their mom was. The boy said she was inside on the computer doing school work. I rang the doorbell twice before she answered and she looked very confused. The little girl was down the step and she had not seen her yet. I said, “Ma’am, I’m a neighbor from down the street. Your daughter was running naked down the sidewalk completely alone so I followed her home to be sure she made it here safely.” She looked at the older two and said, “I didn’t know you weren’t in the house.” He said they left to ride bikes and didn’t know she was following them. I told her they were pretty far ahead so they could not have seen her. She looked at him while holding her daughter and said, “Why wasn’t she with you?” I began to boil! I said, “Well, I just wanted to make sure there was a parent home I could safely leave her with because she was completely alone and naked.” As I turned to leave she said something about going and getting her clothes.
As I write this I am still angry. Some people would say not to judge her because I do not know her situation. Here are the things I do know:
- I almost missed seeing this. I had to stop twice on my way out of our house. If I would have been two minutes earlier or later, that little girl would have been running right into a very busy street completely unsupervised.
- God is good. It was me who found her and got her home. It could have been a pedophile. She could have easily been a heartbreaking national news story. It could have been a tragedy. God protected her.
- This mom had no idea where her kids were. This was not a situation where she thought her kids were safely playing in the yard and one went off on their own. She did not know where ANY of them were. She could have been curing cancer for her school work, and that would not have been more important than taking care of her kids.
- She blamed a child. She asked her son why his sister was not with him. Here is my question: WHY WASN’T SHE WITH YOU? It is completely inappropriate to expect an at most ten year old to be responsible for another person. Irregardless of maturity, he is not responsible for her safety, her parents are!
- She was mortified. She did not say a single word to me. She looked like she wanted to crawl under the foundation of her house and die. She should have been more than just embarrassed. She was probably in shock, but her immediate response was to lay blame at her older child’s feet.
- I had to leave quickly. Every bit of anger that was welling up inside me was going to take an already traumatic situation for those kids and make it worse because the neighbor lady was about to lose it on their mom. I wanted to scream at her and ask her why she was blaming anyone but herself. I wanted to rip into her, but God moved me to be as gracious as I could and then to leave quickly.
- If I ever see any of these kids (probably any child) in a situation like this again where they are not safe, I will immediately call 911.
I got in my car and called my husband and boiled over about how upset and angry I was. About a week ago we were talking about a news story about a kidnapping. I said I could not see how in this day and age parents can say they had no idea where their kid was – especially small children. I just did not see how it could happen. I see it now. It happens when we expect our tiny kids to look after themselves. It starts by society treating children like accessories in Christmas cards or expendable in the face of our own priorities.
Lauren walks around in stores now because she is gaining independence. She does not walk out of my arm’s reach. Her hand is to be on the basket at all times. If she even crosses out of my peripheral vision for a microsecond, I immediately adjust to see her, and I feel the smallest twinge of guilt because that is how fast losing a child can happen when you are out and about.
I am just as careful at home. Lauren knows not to open a door outside without her daddy or me with her. She knows not to come to the door when we answer it. I am what some people will call overprotective, but I can live with that. I can not and will not ever have to live with one of my children being hurt or put into a situation where they could easily be victimized.
Parents, grandparents, and caregivers, BE VIGILANT! BE AWARE! KNOW WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE! They are a gift from God and He has entrusted their care to you. They need you. They need you to always be aware of how they need to be taken care of in each moment. You can not do that if you have no idea where they are.
I am going to calm down and pray over the next few days, and then I am going to go and introduce myself to this family. I pray that this experience will stay with all of them, but mostly with the parents who are charged with loving and taking care of those children. I know it will stay with me and hope it stays with you.
If you ever see a child in what seems to be distress, stop what you are doing, and help them. We can not always trust the intention of others, but if yours is to help, then DO IT!
I will not ever forget today. I will not ever stop thanking God for the grace and goodness He showed today.