Five days ago I went to the mall in the city on my own. Something happened that shook me up and I doubt I will forget it any time soon.
I spent a wonderful day clothes shopping all by myself. When I was just about done for the day I decided to hit Wal-Mart yet. In that mall, there is a long, wide hallway that leads from the mall to the Wal-Mart. It has a few benches along the side with windows and some arcade games and some bikes for sale, but mainly it is just a very busy hallway with people walking both ways.
I have what my friend Jaymi refers to as "baby radar". I cannot help but look at every baby and glance inside every stroller if I can! Hubby & I are particular suckers for East Indian and Asian kids - especially those oh-my-goodness adorable Filipino cuties! So anyway, I entered the hallway and my eye was involuntarily drawn to a little girl (possibly because she was Asian or possibly because she was just plain adorable or possibly because the mommy-shaped hole in my heart just can't help it) sitting on a bench.
I took a few more steps until I was past her and then slowly came to a stop. Something was wrong. She was alone. There was no adult around who seemed in charge. Keep in mind she was probably only around 3 or 4. She was sitting cross-legged on the bench with her stuffed bunny, a container of snacks, and was reading a picture book. She looked 100% content.
I didn't know what to do. I glanced at the other people coming through the hall. I looked them in the eye to see if they had also noticed the little alone girl? Either no one did, no one cared, or everyone handled it as poorly as I did -- I worried and wondered a little more, than went into Wal-Mart. Please don't jump all over me. I have beaten myself up enough for not doing something about the situation immediately. I browsed a bit, tried on some clothes, bought nothing, and headed out towards the hallway again. My first thought was, was she still there?
She was. I headed down the hallway watching her and slowed down as I got nearer. At this point, shortly before her, there was another bench. My ear caught the words of the middle-aged couple sitting there. The lady was indignantly talking about the little girl left there all alone. I immediately stopped and asked her "Do you know why?" She said "Why?" And I said "No, I don't know." I sat down with the couple and they told me they had been sitting there for 20 minutes (they must've come by right after me) already and nobody had come back for her. They told me they had called security, and they weren't planning on budging until someone came! Wow, I wish I had responded like that right away! The lady was right riled up, and although her man was fairly calm, I think he felt as strongly as she did. I stayed with the couple but security wasn't coming. I made a joke that if she was free for the taking, Hubby & I are adopting and would gladly take her -- it was a joke made out of the stress of the situation for sure. We continued to talk. The lady had asked the little girl where her mommy was, to which she replied, "Shopping." (Can I just say What?!?!?!?!?!?!?!) Then she asked her "Do you want me to find your mommy?" to which the little girl replied "No." Eventually I said if they weren't going to leave, that I would be on my way. They adamantly said they weren't going anywhere. However, I was reluctant to leave and ended up staying with them.
Eventually a lady around my age or perhaps a bit younger came down the hallway pushing a stroller (a travel system so I'm assuming there was an infant in it). She slowed down and stopped at the little girl and the little girl started gathering up her things. The young lady looked totally at ease. The couple I was with jumped up and marched up to her. I went with (I was like some tag-a-long). The lady pointed at a sign across the hall from the bench that I hadn't even seen that said "Do Not Leave Children Unattended" and proceeded to rip into the young lady about how she shouldn't leave her child. The young lady just quietly said "I'm sorry" each time the lady told her something about how dangerous it was, etc. She didn't look the least bit remorseful. I don't think she had a clue how badly things could've gone -- either that someone twisted could've taken her child or that Child and Family Services could've taken away her child. Oh, and her reason for leaving her daughter there? "She was tired. She couldn't walk anymore." Seriously?!?!?!?!?
We then walked away and I started to cry a little. The couple then said how "some people can't have kids and then there's women like that who shouldn't be allowed to have kids". I cried more. I then told them (since I tend to be an over-sharer) "I know I don't know you guys at all, but my husband and I are one of those couples" and something like "we would do anything to have a little girl like that" or something, at which point the lady said something sympathetically (I think it was "Oh you poor thing, I have a friend like that") and proceeded to reach up and pull me down for a big hug. Yes, I received a hug from a stranger and cried on her shoulder in the mall.
After that we talked a little more, a little more light-heartedly, and discovered that the man and I have similar heritage, which was kind of funny. I then decided to go straight home because I was shook up. All done shopping for sure.
I hope the young lady learned her lesson but I honestly don't know if she has. I know that I learned a lot from that couple that day. To watch over those in trouble, to stand up to people if they are endangering someone, and to befriend those who are hurting.