HUNTERS BEWARE: OUR CHILDREN ARE OFF LIMITS!


This morning I watched a video of a 7-year-old girl who was almost abducted at a Wal-Mart in GeorgiaChild fights off would-be abductor.

It reminded me of an experience I had a couple of days before Christmas while shopping at the Fox Hills Mall in Culver City.  My granddaughter was visiting L.A., as was I, and she wanted to stretch her $40 to get a few gifts. So, my mom and niece suggested she start at the Wal-Mart located in the mall.

After I made certain the girls kept a good eye on their grandmother/great-grandmother, my plan was to sneak out and get a “Hello Kitty” bracelet made for my granddaughter without her getting a whiff of the surprise.  As I began walking from the back of the huge store to the exit, a little girl, I’ll call “Brandy,” with stringy blonde hair and the sweetest face appeared just a couple of feet from the end of the aisle. Brandy called out to me. Surprised, I continued toward her and she asked me for help.

It’s amazing when little people have the veracity and calm to approach a stranger for help and know exactly who to trust. Brandy told me that she had lost her family, but when I asked about her mother, she said she was at home. My first fear was that  she had been abandoned, but in her gibberish, I realized that Brandy had been with other family members.

Brandy quickly grabbed my hand and we started walking as I called out to the shoppers, “Small child lost! Anyone looking for their daughter?” I asked Brandy if it was alright for me to pick her up so people could see her better. (It was also better for my back.) She gave me a darling smile. Apparently, she, too, wanted to be carried.

Brandy had a remarkably calm demeanor and conversed with me like we were old friends. I was particularly touched by her comfort with me. She kept one arm gripped around my neck,  and at times placed her head on my shoulder, drawing my motherly love around her like a protective tigress.

Hearing my call to the Wal-Mart shoppers, a young male security guard walked up to us and said he’d take the child. I politely refused and could feel her relief as her grip tightened. Our bond had become special and she felt assured I’d take her to safety. I offered the guard to walk with us, guide us to the customer service, and, most importantly, to make a “lost child” store announcement. I convinced the guard, “it’s not personal, dear, but the little sweetheart chose me to help her find her family because she felt safe with me.” It was clear that I wasn’t going to release her to anyone that was not her family.

The security guard left us, but crossed paths with us again a few minutes later. Again, I requested that he make an announcement that a little child was looking to be reunited with her family. It irked me that something as simple as making a full store announcement was not the immediate response of the store security. By now, a male and female security guard were aware of the child’s dilemma, but neither had made any motion to make an announcement.

In the meantime, I heard a voice a few feet away, “Picking up strays now, are you?” Then, laughter ensued as my niece and granddaughter walked up looking amazed and amused. Little Brandy waved her hand from left to right at them both and asked, “Is this your family?” The gesture was so cute that we all burst out laughing. I managed to answer affirmatively. The three of them began a conversation, and then, my mom appeared looking bewildered. She thought I should turn the child over to the store security. We all exclaimed, “No!” That’s when Mom really saw Brandy. That darling child had engaged her, too.  A few moments later, a tattered looking young man with a boy about 5 years old spotted us.

Brandy’s wide smile was indication enough to let us know that they were her family. Still holding on to me like I was her dear friend, she cheered, “That’s my daddy!” It took her a second to let me go, as she thanked me with a squeeze. I handed her over to her worried-looking father. With a look of embarrassment and relief, he thanked me profusely.

Mom, the quintessential grandmother and great-grandmother walked over to Brandy’s father and had a grandmotherly chat with him. As we were leaving Wal-Mart, we asked her what she told him.  Mom shared, with raised brow, that Brandy and her brother had been allowed to play hide ‘n’ seek under the clothing racks  (something her children would have never been allowed to do, by the way) when Brandy got lost. Mom’s wise words to the father were, “This is not the climate to leave your children unattended, even for a moment.” He seemed to digest her words well and with appreciation. We were all glad it turned out so gracefully.

My best advice for a parent is that you teach your children good survival skills while keeping them prayed up. Watch them with a hawk’s eye, as much as you are able. That 7-year-old who was almost kidnapped fortunately got away. It’s often not the case. Keep your little ones close to you, especially  when you are in places where they can easily become lost or get snatched. The beasts who steal children are hunters and have the patience of hunters.

Build a trustworthy network. Your children are worth every moment of your time. Above all treat your children with love and respect. They grow up faster than you can imagine.

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