Yesterday, I wrote about the way we encourage each other to be afraid of everything, by spreading our “scary stories” of things that could go wrong–even when our stories amount to nothing but a feeling we had about a guy at the store.
We lament “You can’t trust anyone.” And then we confirm it to ourselves over and over, by focusing like lasers on the creepy, scary, worst-cases.
We actively teach ourselves (and our children) to see everyone as a potential-killer, and then we assure each other it’s necessary; we have to do that…because strangers are dangerous.
But, what happens when someone needs help, with no one but a stranger around?
A few weeks ago, my parenting fail could have become a scary Facebook warning…but it didn’t.
I was teaching school to my oldest daughter, Cami, at my parents’ house, where we go two days a week.
Cami’s best buddy, Olivia, lives on the same block and is also homeschooled, so the girls do their school together on those days. I had just finished their lessons, so they asked to walk back to Olivia’s house together.
They had done this dozens of times.
The backyards of the two houses practically touch each other. Usually they go out the backdoor of one house, across the alley, and into the backyard of the other.
What I didn’t realize was Olivia’s back gate was locked…
This wasn’t a problem for Olivia. She took Cami around to the front door, and then said goodbye. But, the detour got Cami all turned around because, apparently, she has the same directional sense as her father. 😉
Trying to get back to her grandparents’ house, Cami ended up crossing a steet, and then another…and another. Meanwhile, I was waiting for her, unaware I should be concerned yet!
About 15 minutes later, there was a knock on the front door, and Cami was standing with a woman I’d never seen before.
“She was running down the sidewalk crying,” the lady explained.
Uh… say, what??? I struggled to wrap my mind around the mental image.
“She got lost? How? WHERE?”
“We found her about three blocks away,” the lady pointed East. “At first, she didn’t want to talk to me, but she did great. She knew her name and your name–and what color the house was…”
I focused my attention on Cami, “Why did you cross the street, baby? You’ve walked back and forth from Olivia’s house lots of times!” (Eventually, we worked out that the gate had been locked.)
I was still in shock, but I thanked the woman and assured her we’d be more careful in the future. And then my mind started playing all the “What If” scenarios.
My baby was just holding hands with a stranger…she told the stranger her name and age and where she lived… she got in the stranger’s car!!!
Oh my goodness!!!!
It was nauseating, until I realized…if she hadn’t done those things, she’d still be lost.
The Kind Stranger made sure that something much, much worse didn’t happen.
Consider the story told by Ken Davis, of losing his granddaughter in the mountains. (Get the tissues.) That little girl had been lost for hours, and still her first words to the couple that found her were, “I can’t talk to you.”
Thank God those Kind Strangers still worked to gain her trust and then reunited her with her family.
Later on the afternoon of Cami’s ordeal, I noticed a missed call from what looked like a spam account on Facebook.
“Who in the world is Tiffany?” I asked out loud. “Probably a scam caller trying to get money.”
But Cami corrected me.
“Tiffany is that girl who found me.”
Suddenly, that weird, suspicious call from a stranger meant something totally different. “The Stranger” had a name.
I sent Tiffany a message thanking her again for taking care of my girl when I wasn’t there.
And, far from asking for money, she responded:
No problem, I’m glad I could help! I have a son her age and I know how their minds wander. LOL please tell her she did an excellent job answering my questions… I hope if my son was ever in that position that he would do as well as she did.
Sometimes strangers are teachers.
Sometimes strangers are doctors and police officers.
Many times, they’re also parents, who see the face of their own child when they look at yours in trouble.
Maybe I’m too trusting. And maybe someday you’ll see my face on the news, having paid the ultimate price for letting my children explore their neighborhoods.
But I still believe it’s a shame that all strangers are treated with bad assumptions, based solely on the actions of a few.
There are some truly wonderful people in your community–probably more good ones than bad. Most of us are just friends who don’t yet know each other’s names.