Friday, September 07, 2007

But she did not cry for help.

Yesterday I was running errands, purchasing paint for our home office, browsing a teacher's supply store in search of Sunday School supplies. Basic, mundane tasks we all do. It was just another extraordinary day.

When I'd finished everything I needed to do, I had a little time to waste before picking up my daughter from school. So I decided to stop at TJ Maxx to fill the time. As I passed the children's clothing on my way to housewares, I saw a little girl weaving in and out of the clothing racks. She couldn't have been more than three years old.

"Where's her mom?" immediately came to mind and I stood there looking for a woman or anyone who seemed like they would "match." We've all done this. We see a child wandering around or playing with something in a store and our eyes start to scan the area, searching for the grown-up to whom they belong. Most of the time, we find the grown-up and then we hear,"Get back over here. I can't see you."

Only this time I couldn't find the "match." The little girl kept wandering through the racks, past the baby clothes, and on into another department. I looked around. Still no grown-up. Not able to find an employee closeby without taking my eyes off the lost girl, I knelt down and asked the girl, "Sweetie, where's your mommy?"

"I don't know," she said.

"We need to find her," I said.


"What's your name?"

"muttered words"

"What, honey?"

"muttered words"

Still no grown-up. No one had noticed that I- a complete stranger- had stopped to talk to a small child who does not belong to me.

"Let's find your mommy. We need to find a person who works here."


Then, the absolute worst thing happened.

She followed me.

I didn't take her hand because I did not want her to really trust me. I had wished that she would scream, "Stranger! I want my mommy!" I wished that she would have stood there, frozen in that spot in the aisle, refusing to go anywhere with a person she did not know, a person who (this time) had her best interests at heart, a person who was in fact someone's mommy, but not hers.

Instead, she followed me. She did not make a peep. She followed me all the way to the front of the store. All the way to the front of the store. Then she stood there with me in line at the registers until I could speak to a clerk.

Still no grown-up.

The clerks were extremely helpful and immediately took her hand. Before they did, I knelt down again to this little girl to tell her that these ladies work there, "see their badges?" and that it was OK for her to go with them to find her mommy.

Soon, the three of us deciphered the muttered words of a little girl to learn her name. Soon, an announcement was made over the store's intercom. I watched as a clerk walked around the store with a tiny, lost hand in her firm grip. Soon, a lost child and her mommy were reunited.

There was no search party.

There was no press conference.

Only the sounds of metal hangers sliding across clearance racks and the grateful sigh of a shopper who just happened to stop in the store to fill the time before picking up her own little girl.

While I wanted to stomp in a rage in the face of this mom who, for what seemed an eternity, did not know where her daughter was, I took a moment to pray. I thanked God that this little girl was safe and I asked Him to protect her. Then I drove to my own daughter's school and sat in car line. The end of a busy, mundane, task-filled day.

This morning I saw the news about a mom who left her child in her car all day while she was at work taking care of other people's children. She sobbed on camera as police interviewed her. The images were heartbreaking. It doesn't really matter what I feel about her or the mom who lost her child in the store; something is wrong.

Something is terribly wrong.

While I do not believe that "it takes a village" to raise a child, I do believe that the villagers should help each other. The women of the pioneer days and even my grandmother's days did it right. They helped each other with household chores, watching each other's children, and mentoring one another.

Moms, if you are overwhelmed, if you are doing too much, if you are trying to please everyone all the time, stop. Take a moment to prioritize. Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to ask a friend or a neighbor for help.

If you know someone who seems overwhelmed or exhausted, a mother or father who could use a helping hand, offer help. Offer to pick up their child from school or give them a ride to soccer practice, or plan a play date at your house so the mom can have some time to herself. Tell her you care about her and her children.

She may never ask you for help, but you can hear her cry. When you do, answer it.

A child's life may depend on it.

Edited To Add-

If you are a mom needing support and friendship of other moms, here are a few great organizations to check out. Search for a group near you. Meet moms just like you and give your kids a chance to make some new friends. We need each other, ladies!

MOMS(Moms Offering Moms Support)Club

MOPS- Mothers Of Preschoolers


ValleyGirl said...

That's so sad. And scary. How wonderful that God placed you in that store to help the lost little girl. What a heart-breaking story, but a strong reminder of what our priorities should be. Our young children should NOT be accustomed to being alone and unsupervised.

Laurel Wreath said...

Amen. And praise God, he placed you there at that moment instead of some one else.

Edith said...

Oh wow! That's so scary - sounds like you handled it well and with great wisdom.

I am one of those moms who needs help at times, is overwhelmed and too busy - it's very very difficult to make that "cry for help" when it's needed. My boys are older which makes a difference but the challenges can still be there.


Kelli said...

Eloquently put. Incredibly true.

LilyLakeMom said...

What a beautiful post.
There's just nothing more I can add. Thank you!

Nancy said...

When I think of all the times that I have felt my stomach rise up into my throat at not being able to see my child in a public place, I find it impossible to comprehend what you wrote. You are right. Priorities are messed up. I would probably taken her hand. I guess it has something to do with comforting kids in Sunday school. You are right. This child could easily be snatched. Unfortunately, mine probably could be too. They know not to help someone find a lost dog or be alone where I can't see them, but they are still eager to be helpful. I think I'll talk to them again today.

Barb @ A Chelsea Morning said...

This is so disturbing, Melanie. It's hard for me to imagine a mother so preoccupied with shopping that she forgets to care where her three year old is for that long. For a moment, actually.

What a great message this post carries.

Roxanne said...

You were the hands and feet of Christ today. He has been glorified through your actions even if that mom or the little girl never realize it.

Melanie said...

While your comments about me are very kind and sweet (thank you), I wanted to share this with y'all in hopes that we as moms would take a minute to check our lives and how our schedules are affecting our kids.
I challenge all of us to keep our eyes and ears open to moments we can help a child or a busy mom we know. Accidents and unfortunately abductions happen in the blink of an eye, but surely we can do more to help protect our kids.
Blessings to all!

Susanne said...

My goodness. That is so scary. I found it really interesting that you actually thought through that you did not want the little girl to trust you, even though you were helping her, because after all you were a stranger. I never would have thought that angle. I would have helped her but not thought through that I was a stranger and she in innocence was trusting me.

His Doorkeeper said...

I've seen that alot of times and it scares me. Here's something else that scares me: a mother goes out into a parking lot , say like at Target, towards her car and the little tiny kid is walking 10 steps behind her and no one is watching the child! Please hold on to your child when you go to the car!
God bless you for helping this little girl!

Big Mama said...

Breaks my heart. It's a good lesson for all of us and made me stop and think how Caroline would respond to being lost somewhere.

Brenda said...

Thank God you were there. And thank you for this reminder that we do need to invest our time with our children more wisely.

shelley said...

My heart aches for that mother that left her child in the car. We are all human, and we all make mistakes, and hers was a terrible one, with terrible consequences. We do need to examine our scheduales and our priorites, too often our children are an after thought. And I agree, we need to remember to help our fellow mommies. And remember to ask for help if we need it.

thediaperdiaries said...

Excellent post and reminder.

Anonymous said...

That is scary! Praise the LORD that HE put you in that store for that little girl! Shame on that mother for not keeping track of her precious gift. I can only imagine the horror that little girl could have faced if you or anyone else nice hadn't helped her... she was probably scared to say the least. But for her to follow you, a complete stranger, that is scary.

Meredith said...

Thank you for the powerful reminder!

I have always told my children to find another mom with kids if they can't find a store employee when lost.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. It's reassuring to know that, contrary to the media drivel, there are still a lot of real folks out you.

Anne said...

Lilke you said, you had good intentions. I shudder to think what would've happened to that little girl if someone with a wrong motive would've found her.

lisa h. said...

how crazy! southern and all, you just can't be laid back about some things. i feel all the time that i end of babysitting others kids at the park etc when the moms all huddle together and chat and aren't really watching their children. we have moments where we look away for a second, but really if you need to go shopping or chat that bad pay a babysitter to watch your child!

good post though....i need to teach my child more about stranger danger and to scream his lungs out!

Summer in FL said...

Thanks for your post! I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

Amazing post! Scary.

Thank you for the reminder!

Trina said...

~~cold chills down my spine~~


Mrs. Brownstone said...

Wow. This is an awesome post. Thank you so much for sharing with everyone. It's not only a good reminder about exactly how OFTEN we need to have the "stranger danger" talk with our children, it's a reminder about how we NEED relationships with people that can read between our lines and how we need to read between theirs. As women, we can all get a little down or a little overwhelmed at times.
Thanks again for sharing.

tAnYeTTa said...

wow!!!!!!!! this was a very powerful message.

The Vinson Five said...


Mom2fur said...

My stomach is in knots to think what might have happened! Thank God that you were there, and not some pervert! I agree with you totally...if a parent is overwhelmed and needs help, they should ASK FOR IT. And if we can give help, we should!

Beth/Mom2TwoVikings said...

Been there, done that. Been that frazzled, seen others that frazzled.

Have been struggling to carry my baby/toddler while my older toddler/preschooler was "escaping". Had people stand and stare as I struggled to open doors carrying bags and babies. If only ONE person had offered to help, it would have made my day.

Was in a new town, no family, home alone with 2 under 2 when I joined my local MOMS Club. I would HIGHLY recommend it! Those ladies have become friends, helpers, people I call when I need something. I've recently joined out mentor program - and now I am one of the ones who checks in on new members and/or new moms to see how they're doing.

Great post - and God bless you for your action! So many would have walked away.

Bananas said...

Oh my gosh this is such an amazing post... You brought tears to my eyes. Very well said. Very moving. AMEN.

Pam said...

I'm here via Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. Mom groups are the best. I am a part of our local MOPS group, and it has absolutely been the best thing for my mental health as a mom.

Anne @ AKA Mum said...

I'm glad you were there for that little girl - just as I'm so very glad that it was people like you who found a little girl deliberately abandoned by her father at a railway station here last week. It gives me chills to think of the other possibilities.