Monday, September 14, 2009

I found my dream job... kinda

I was in Borders a few weeks ago with my friend Alex, sitting in the cafe and reading on a Friday evening. There were lots of people around, even though the store was about to close. As we were heading for the door I noticed a little girl, who couldn't have been more than four, wandering around the cafe area. She was walking in little circles, biting her finger. I thought she looked a little out of place because aside from Alex and myself, there were no other white folks in sight, and none of the people there were watching her. Instinctively I stopped. She continued to trot around on her chubby little legs, looking more and more anxious; Alex and I looked at each other and I whispered, "Is she lost?" At that very moment, the little girl stopped dead in her tracks. Her legs bent at the knees, slightly inward, as though she were about to collapse; her hands dropped to her sides, her shoulders slumped, and although her back was to me, I heard her cry. It was heartbreaking.

I walked over to her, crouching down and reaching out to touch her little shoulder. As she turned to me, I asked her "Honey, are you lost?" I had barely gotten the words out when she leaned into me, collapsing into my arms as I reached out to scoop her up. She hid her face in my shoulder and sobbed "I don't know where she is... she said good-bye to meee..." and started to cry again. As I tried to soothe her, I asked her for her name. She hiccuped, "My name is Kira.... I don't know where my mommy is!" She clutched me tightly like a little monkey, wrapping her legs around my waist as if for dear life. Having worked at Borders before, I knew that they had a strict no-touch policy with lost children. I hated it because kids got lost in our megastore all the time, and I felt so cold and distant by refusing to hold them. I totally understand the policy, but it was awful anyway. I can only imagine how alone this little one could have felt had she been discovered by an employee, who then would have to coax her to the customer service desk when the poor thing was too frightened to move. I carried her down the aisles, thinking about what she was saying- her mother had said "good-bye" to her? Did I have an abandoned child on my hands? As I considered this, I panned the store for an appropriately panicked-looking parent and sure enough, a woman came running to me with that mixture of fear and anger on her face... the expression of a parent who is so relieved you're not dead that they're now ready to kill you for making them worry. Kira went right to her, crying "You said good-bye to me, mommy!" and the mother, thanking me and taking her little girl, said "No, you wandered away from me when I told you to be still." I'll be honest- I wanted to smack the woman for letting it happen, taking into account the size of the store (huge), the amount of time that had passed (enough to regret), and the little girls insistence that her mother had told her good-bye (wtf), but I simply smiled, said "You're welcome" and left.

As I recounted this story later on, I explained how relieved I was, in that moment of picking her up, to know that this little girl, while lost, would at least be safe with me. The relief in her eyes and her little body as she fell into my arms was so precious; I told my mom, "I just wish I could find lost children all the time..."  She looked at me and said with a little twinkle in her eye, "Now there's a career for you."

How amazing would that be? To find and comfort lost and frightened children, and bring them safely home? (I know, I know, it's been done. But don't act like Denzel's "Man on Fire" is more interesting than me. Psh) As I've mentioned before, seeing the films Changeling and Gone Baby Gone affected me pretty heavily because they opened my eyes to horrors that, for some reason, I didn't believe possible. I've always thought myself a realist, but apparently I was still too optimistic about humanity to believe that anyone could actually harm a child on purpose (Out of sheer wickedness, like the child rapist and murderer from Changeling... which is a true story, by the way).

I still go back to that sentence that I spoke so unwittingly: "I wish I could find lost children all the time." Can I have that job? Like a nonprofit bounty-hunter, but way, way different. It's like Derek Zoolander seeing his reflection in a spoon... suddenly everything becomes really clear and you think, "Wow, I'm (insert talent, obsession, or the one thing that you have going for you... ridiculously good-looking), maybe I should do that for a career!" Maybe not, but I just watched Zoolander so it's still right there at the front of my mind. Work with me.



Trevor said...

1am, early December in Minnesota, 15 degrees.
I almost hit a toddler with my car who was walking the streets in the snow in his diaper, a T-shirt, and freezing wet socks, and holding onto two Hot Wheels.
I feces you not.
That kid held so tight to me, I still can't believe I didn't keep him...
But someone told me those things get older and more needy, but in less cute ways - so I'm glad I gave it to the police.

orangeweezel said...

haha that is a hilarious comment!

You could run a Christian orphanage where the kids can actually feel loved

Jeremy said...

Wow, Hil that story truly reflects the image of God. I bet that is how He feels every time he finds one of us walking in endless circles not knowing where to go to find safty.