Slow down and save a life
I was waiting to place my order at Ben & Jerry’s in Durham, when I noticed through the front windows toward Main Street, a little toddler on the sidewalk alone. Across the lot, right next to Main Street, was a young woman and a couple of small children. I put together that the toddler was with her. I was nervous for the little boy because cars rush through there.
The clerk finished with the woman in front of me and I placed my order. And that’s when I turned and looked for the boy again. He had rounded the corner and was now facing Duke East Campus wall. Then he boldly headed between two parked cars, towering over his little head, toward the flow of cars into and out of Whole Foods parking lot. I bolted, dashing to cut him off before he reached the street. I shouted something, I don’t even know what, to catch his attention and slow him from going into the traffic. In a flash I grabbed his chubby little arm and no harm came to him. A second later a happy family drove by with a dog lolling out the open window.
Then I saw the woman, the one who had been standing with the other children next to Main Street, walking over to me, still talking on her headset.
I said, “Are you his mother?”
She did not reply. For a second I wondered if she understood English, so total was her flat affect. So I said again, “Are you his mother?” She did not make eye contact with me, just took his arm and walked away, her belly swollen with the next innocent life. The other children, presumably, were left alone next to the busy traffic on Main Street.
No one in North Carolina is obligated to report a crime, except in the case of children. North Carolina has a law, NCGS 7B-301, known as The Duty to Report. “Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, as defined by G.S. 7B-101, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the department of social services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found.”
It goes on to say that the report can be made orally or in writing. The reporter can refuse to identify themselves. “Refusal of the person making the report to give a name shall not preclude the department’s assessment of the alleged abuse, neglect, dependency, or death as a result of maltreatment.”
The situation in front of Ben & Jerry’s all happened so fast. Like a few puzzle pieces that suddenly gel with impending doom. Parking lots are notorious for car mishaps. They are not infrequently used to slip through to avoid a traffic light. I admit, I have done this.
I hope I never do it again. By slowing down we might spend a few extra minutes, but we might also save a life.
I drove home thinking that for those 30 seconds to one minute, that little boy got the care and protection that he deserves, 24/7, 365 days a year.