Looking other way isn’t looking out for kids
A couple years ago, I was working for a Roaring Fork Valley newspaper. Our office was on the second floor of an office building facing the river. My desk was next to a window so I had a clear vantage point for looking out onto the river and the building’s parking lot below.
One afternoon, as I was day-dreaming (although when a writer does this, it’s usually called `finding the muse,’ read: `spacing out’) I looked out my window to see three little girls messing around in the lot just under our office. They were probably 8 or 9 years old, and were running around and giggling like most 8- or 9-year-old girls do.
The parking lot had seven or eight parking slots and about half of them were filled with our staff’s vehicles, and a few cars from other offices. The girls were running among the cars. It was a warm day, and my window was open as I absently watched them.
The girls ran off and ran back, standing in an empty parking space and talking quietly. It looked like one of them was holding something. Then, suddenly, they all fanned out, and one of the girls produced what looked like a Snapple glass bottle. She held it high over her head and threw it with a shatter on the pavement. The glass flew everywhere.
“HEY!!!” I yelled as loud as I could. It was instinctual. First, were they okay? Did any of them lose an eye during this brilliant move? Then, anger set in. I’d just had a flat tire a week ago. Anybody who pulled into that space was going to get nailed. We also had a number of office dogs around the area. I could see the vet bills piling up as my dog – and others – ran through razor-sharp glass.
All three of the girls’ heads snapped up trying to figure out where the big bad voice was coming from, sheer terror and fear in their faces. “HEY!!!” I yelled again.
Just as instinctually, the girls turned tail and ran like the wind. They were freaked.
I flew out of my chair, out the office door and ran down to the parking lot. They were nowhere. What remained of the glass bottle was there in sharp, lethal pieces.
I caught my breath. What was I doing? Maybe it was because these little girls looked like good kids, who’d just done something young and stupid and I didn’t want them to get away with it – not because I wanted to be a controlling authority figure, but because if they got away with that, then maybe they’d think they could get away with other stuff. And getting away with stuff that just isn’t right isn’t right.
So I hunted them down. I cruised all around the office building. I poked my head into different offices. “Have you guys seen any little girls running around?” I’d asked.
Finally, I went into the last retail space – a specialty convenience store – in the building. The three girls were there, and immediately ran out the back door.
“Who are these little girls?” I asked the shop owner and a small group of women standing nearby. The women looked confused. “Those little girls just took a glass bottle and smashed it in the parking lot. They need to clean that up.” I told the ladies where the offense took place and where my office was, and I left.
About five minutes later, the three girls showed up in the parking lot, brooms and dustpans in hand. They swept, and swept and swept, cleaning up all the glass shards. Then they came upstairs to my office.
I met them at the door. They weren’t running anymore.
“We are so sorry,” said one of them. Then they all piped in. “We are so sorry! We are sorry!”
“I’m sorry I yelled at you, but you guys need to know when you do something like that, it’s not over once you do it,” I said. “You have to take care of it. Tell me why you did that?”
They looked at each other kind of blankly.
“We just had a glass bottle and wanted to see it break,” one of them said. “We wanted to see what it was like when glass breaks.”
Fair enough. They were being honest. They were curious.
I told them that next time they want to test something out like that to go to their science teacher or somebody like that, where it’ll be safe and they won’t hurt themselves or other people’s things.
Last summer, I had a similar experience. The whole family had taken a trek to Denver, and we ended up at Water World. We were standing in line on top of a three- or four-foot-tall tower to go on a giant water slide when I saw a few boys ahead of us – probably 12 to 15 years old – spitting, yes, spitting on people below.
“What are you guys doing??” I said, without skipping a beat. The other people in line had been ignoring them.
The boys had thought they were pretty cool – until now. They looked at me, at first like they were going to pick a fight. Then they saw my husband standing behind me and decided against it.
“How would you like to be spit on? That’s disgusting,” I said. “Knock it off.”
All of a sudden, they weren’t so cool. They talked quietly among themselves until they were next in line for the slide.
I put my hand on one of their shoulders.
“You just got to think about what you’re doing,” I said to him.
“I know,” he said, almost appreciatively.
Now, I was certainly not a perfect child, and I’m sure not a perfect adult. But butting in at times and taking an extra step to help some kids I’ll never see again in a better direction is something very small that I’m glad to have done. I’m hoping that maybe my caring – my butting in – has helped those kids too in the long run.
Carrie Click is a Post Independent staff writer. Her column runs on Tuesdays.
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