I wasn’t going to blog about this because it seems so personal and so recent… But I can’t get it out of my head and this is what I do. I write things out of my head.
I want to share. I don’t want the attention. I want the attention to go to the many situations that we walk past every day. The many kids that are just waiting for someone to ask, “Are you okay?”.
So here’s what happened:
Sunday night Ethan and I were driving home on i-95 on my way back from NY. It was 9 at night, cold and dark. Suddenly a young woman appears in my head lights on the side of the road. She’s walking alone in a light sweater and jeans. No car in sight. I pass her just like everyone else does, but the image haunts me. Who is that girl? Why is she walking down the highway alone in the dark, miles until the next exit? Maybe she needs help?
I say a quick prayer for her. I pray that God brings someone to stop and help her. Obviously I had already passed her and I was in a hurry to get to my destination. Besides, I had Ethan in the car and this woman could be a psycho. I pass one exit. I think about how many people I’d walked by that I couldn’t help just within the last few days… And the image of the girl was still there. I pass another exit.
I can’t help her? I’m in a hurry. Surely, someone will stop. I prayed about it… So *someone* will stop… Another exit…. And I sigh and turn onto the exit pretty abruptly. I wish I could say that I was confident and fearless about this decision but that would be a lie. I was annoyed. Irritated. Worried. And the guilt was eating away at me.
“Where we going, mom?” Ethan asks.
“I have to see if that girl’s okay.” I responded, hoping I’m not giving him a terrible demonstration by choosing to talk to a stranger.
I called my friend who had been waiting on me for hours to pick up my dog and let her know what I was doing. In the back of my head it was also a way of letting someone know what was happening in case I end up shot (I don’t live in the nicest of neighborhoods). She tells me to be careful. Which freaks Ethan out a little.
Ethan and I said a prayer and I assured him that if God thought this was bad He wouldn’t let us go through with it. Funny, isn’t it? How afraid we are to help people…
So I drive back to the exit before I’d seen the girl and hop back on the highway… Sure enough a short distance from where I’d originally seen her, there she was.
I pulled over, put my hazards on and beeped. She stopped and slowly turned around. I will never forget her eyes. They were huge, like a cornered animal. I rolled down the window and asked that question.. “Are you okay?”.
Slowly, she approached the passenger side of the car. I rolled the window down a little, still wary. She looked so young.. But her expression was so worried and frightened I couldn’t tell what she would do or say next. I asked again. “Are you okay?”
And she started to cry.
“I’m just trying to get home and i’ve been walking since 3 o clock and I’m so scared and I just want to go home!”
My heart broke. I opened the door and told her I’d take her home. She told me where she lived, and being from my neighborhood I knew where. She said she was fifteen. She had been left alone in the neighboring state by a family member after a fight and even though she knew she’d be in trouble for walking home, she was more afraid of what that family member would have done had she come back for her.
It takes a lot of guts to do what she did. And a lot of fear.
The young girl went on to explain that she’d been walking since 3PM and 3 guys had stopped to offer a ride but she was afraid of them. I told her that I saw her walking and felt like I had to stop. She told me that her family was abusive, but she didn’t want to tell anyone because she didn’t want them to get arrested and she loved them very much. I dropped her off near her home but not in front of it, not wanting to get her into more trouble than she already was in.
I told her that I was abused when I was a kid too and it takes a lot of courage to tell someone about it and she was very strong and brave. In my head, I was conflicted. I wanted to help but what could I do? Before I knew it, my hands were reaching for a pen. I gave her my phone number and told her if she ever needs help to call me. I told her I’d be praying for her and her family. She said, “Thank you, God bless you” and left…
My heart breaks for those children who love their families so much that they keep quiet about their own abuse. I wish I could find a way to reach every kid in that situation and tell them it’s not their fault and that it’s not normal. We live in a society, unfortunately, where it’s much more “normal” than we know.