"Kids?! Let's go! Go to the bathroom and put your shoes on. We're going to run some errands and go to the dollar store."
As my two youngest children ran around finding wallets for spending money and shoes for their feet, I grabbed just a quick 5 minutes on Face Book. I don't know about you, but the world of technology at our fingertips has it's blessings and it's curses for me. It seems when given a minute at a stop light, a chance to sit down anywhere (even the bathroom!), and while waiting on children-(which let's face it:-happens all.the.time), out comes the phone and a quick peek at what's happening "in the world" through the eyes of social media.
Just yesterday, while waiting to head out the door for some shopping, I was appalled and simply terrified by what I saw in only 5 minutes on Face Book.
We drove the 25 minutes to the dollar store with the kids happily chattering what goodies they might find and me silently brewing about the dangers and uncertainties that might lie ahead. When we arrived, they were ready to jump out of the car and begin their treasure hunt before I had the truck in park!
"Wait! Don't open the door! I need to talk to you!" "You know, how usually, in this little store, I let you go into the next aisle if you want to look at something?" I asked my ten year old son, then continued, "Well, you can't do that anymore."
Brogan looked at me curiously, obviously waiting for some explanation. I told the children that from now on, they must not only be in the same aisle as I am, but within arms reach of me. What used to be a simple, and fun trip to the local dollar store suddenly became a place of fear and possible battle zone!
"It's me against them!" "They won't get my kids!"
"You can call me crazy but I might just buy one of those kid leashes for my 13 and 16 year olds too!"
.Ok, you're right., I'm not really going to do that. But that's about how my mind was racing as I took each of my two younger children by a hand and we entered the battle zone! I mean, the dollar store.
"Caeleen! I can't see you-where did you go?!" Brogan looked at me like I'd lost my mind, "Mom! She's right behind you! Geesh!" Peering up and down aisles, looking for suspicious characters, trying to shop, push a cart, consider my purchases and not let the kids away from my side! Phew! I was breaking out in a sweat and we hadn't even tried to pick out balloons that are apt to float to the ceiling with every grab yet!
We finally made it through the aisles and to the balloons. Our goal: pick out several balloons to help decorate for their older sister's birthday the next day.
All was going well. I felt the fear subsiding as we were almost ready to check out.
Just then, I heard a funny "ssppt" noise. Someone was trying to get our attention. Or maybe. Not my attention-but my children's!?! My heart was racing and I was trying to control myself from losing my mind! Then, I saw him! A man! Peered his head around the corner of the aisle in front of us and was trying to get my 7 year old daughter to see him!
As I caught a glimpse? He popped his head back around!!
Just as I was about to drag my kids out of there without even buying our cart full, he came around the aisle in full view.
And... it was their grandfather. My father and mother in law happened to come into the dollar store a bit after we did. We didn't know they were there, until we saw him "playing peek a boo" with my children. All in good fun, obviously, but not without almost giving me a heart attack!
As we stood in the line to check out, after explaining to my in laws some recent events involving children being kidnapped, and how they can think I'm crazy but "the fear is real!" Brogan asked, "Mommy, why do people take kids anyway? What do they want them for?"
How do you even begin to describe the evil intent of such horrible acts? Do I explain to a 10 and 7 year old the reality of sex trafficking? Do I tell them about children being locked in basements for years and used as slaves and sex toys? Should I mention the cases of missing children, eventually found dead in the woods with no explanation ever discovered? These were the questions that poured through my mind as he awaited an answer in the check out line.
At last, at a loss for anything that seemed appropriate under the circumstances, I gave the weak reply, "Never for anything good Brogan. Never for anything good."
I know. its not enough. I can't shelter my children from the evil in this world forever. It's gotten so bad that I can't take them to the bank, a fast food joint, or even the dollar store without fear that a stranger might snatch them in broad daylight while I'm standing right there!
I envision the recent video of the Mom tackling her daughter and hanging on for dear life to rescue her from the kidnapper! I ask myself, "Am I strong enough? Are my reflexes fast enough?! Could I save them if someone grabbed them?"
The video I watched, during that 5 minutes on Face Book before we left the house, showed a horrifying attempt in a local shop in California. A young girl was dragged out of the open shop door by a passerby! "Fortunately", she tripped and fell, providing that extra second her fast acting Momma needed to save her!
It's my 13 year old's birthday tomorrow. All I wanted was to buy a few balloons and decorations for her party in our local dollar store. But nothing seems as easy as "all I wanted" anymore. Everything is tainted with doubts, questions, scary possibilities and based on what we see and hear? Not paranoid but rather realistic fears.
Fear of taking your children to the dollar store? Yes. Because since those 5 minutes of Face Book? That stranger standing in line at the bank starts to look a bit suspicious. Those whispers in the next aisle are no longer "none of my business". The cute old lady who wants to say "Hi" to the littles could very well be a decoy. And the next aisle over in any store? Is simply too far away.
Fear runs deep and it doesn't stop with trips outside of our own homes. There are an equal number of terrifying stories involving families and children who thought they were safe within their own 4 walls.
My mind is at a loss! Where to turn? Who to trust? How to protect!? When? Where? How? What? How did things get so bad?! Are things really worse now then they were when I was a kid?! When did regular shopping trips and outings turn into strong predator possibilities at every turn?! Where did all this fear come from and what can we do to stop it!!
For me? All it took? Was 5 minutes on Face Book.
The next time I'm waiting for my kids to find their wallets and their shoes so we can head to the dollar store, and I've got 5 minutes to spare, I wonder how I would feel and react differently if I spent those 5 minutes reading a different Book. ?
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1