Is This the Right Way to Help a Child in Distress?
Public enemy number one?
Schools out for summer and for me it is the best time of the year. Long, light evenings and the sound of kids playing in the street , just as I used to play in the street more years ago than I care to remember. However, if not in fact, the perception now is that our children and grandchildren are not as safe out playing as we were. For my own part, I feel that there is little difference except that most parents are now more aware of the dangers. This has been brought home to me by a recent incident with two of my grandchildren.
For me, it began with a frantic 'phone call from my daughter. The gist of it was that my two eldest grandsons, they are nine and six, had gone off on their bikes with their older friend to deliver a birthday present to their friends' aunt. They had asked permission before they left because the aunt lived a ten minute bike ride away. An hour later my daughter had seen the boys' friend returning without them. It transpired that as they had cycled down a steep hill the younger of the two boys had forgotten to apply his brakes and duly hit a wall. He had gone over the handlebars of the bike and his head was bleeding. A passer-by picked him up and dusted him off and checked his head, before offering to take him to her nearby home for a plaster. The two boys went with her and their friend continued on to her aunt's home. On hearing this my daughter went straight into panic mode and called the police first and me second. I left work and raced off to comfort my daughter and to help find the boys. They were back home before I got there.
So was this woman a good samaritan, the devil in disguise, or the worst fool imaginable. My initial thoughts were that since she had done as she said she would, applied the plaster and sent them off home I cannot describe her as a devil. However, she had taken someone else's children, children she did not know, into her home, caused my daughter untold anxiety and me a near heart attack. Who, in this day and age would do such a stupid thing. They were two or three minutes from my daughters home. If she wanted to help she could have taken them there. She could also have taken them to the shops which were within sight of the accident or she could merely have picked him up and told the older brother to take him home. She did none of these things. She took him by the hand and led him away with her.
And yet, my grandchildren thought she was lovely. She had dried poor Mathew's tears, washed the dirt out of the cut, put on antisceptic cream and applied the plaster. She had then given them both a drink of water before sending them back home. So what is so terribly wrong with that? What sort of society are we developing where one cannot help a child in distress without a second thought as to how our motive would be percieved. This woman had seen an injured and very distressed child and did as her instincts directed.
Was she right or wrong. I don't know. I do know that, had she stopped to think, she could have helped in alternative ways but should she have had to worry about any of that. You tell me because when you really think about it the answer is not as straightforward as we would like to think. And then, even if you manage to puzzle that one out, there is an even bigger question:
We teach our children, literally from the time they can listen and speak 'Stranger Danger', we have police officers visit them in school to complement the school's own program. I can tell you now, for the vast majority of children it simply doesn't work. I used to go over and over the stranger rule with my own daughters and can remember proudly asking them, in front of my sister what they would do if a stranger offered them sweets. The bigger one smiled sweetly and said 'Say thank you very much'.