I should have trusted my gut. But after years of being told that because I didn't have kids, I couldn't understand, I couldn't know, I couldn't have an opinion, I didn't trust my gut about kids.
So when I saw the kid sitting on the park picnic table at 11:30 in the morning, my gut said something has to be wrong. It's a school day, he's school-aged, he looks alone, maybe a little scared. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What if, what if, what if. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
I kept walking my dog home.
So when I ran into my neighbor who worked for the local Fire Department that evening, at the same park, as we ran our dogs tired, I guess I should not have been surprised when he told me a little kid reported a kidnap attempt earlier that day, right (he waved toward the picnic tables) over there.
As my heart sank, I asked if it was a boy, light reddish or blond hair, blue tee shirt, maybe 10 years old. My neighbor registered faint surprise as he said, "Eleven." He continued, as I interrupted -- jinx -- "And it was around 11:30 this morning."
I started babbling about feeling guilty, about seeing the boy, and ignoring my gut. About worrying of overreacting. About, about, about....
Laconic as always, he turned to face me straight on, and shrugged. "But...." I stammered. And he shrugged again and turned back to pitching the ball for his dog. "But...." I stammered again.
He eyed me out of the corner of his eye, then finally said:
Look. Don't feel guilty. You clearly saw him right before he was found. And I'm quite sure he made up the kidnap attempt, as it simply made no sense. I'm guessing he was playing hooky, and something happened -- who knows what, but yeah, probably got into some bit of trouble -- and so he got help and made up a story to cover his misbehavior. It's all good. Stop feeling guilty.
He turned back to the ball, and I realized that was the most I'd ever heard him say in one go. And that I was lucky that day, but it was a reminder about trusting one's gut, and -- no matter your expertise or knowledge -- getting involved.
How often do we walk by things, ignore things, turn the other way, because "it's none of our business", "we don't want to get involved", "someone else will take care of it"? How often do we miss opportunities to make a difference -- big or small? How often do we close our eyes; practice indifference; play deaf, dumb, and blind? How often?
We are known as one of the most generous nations, quick to open our wallets when tragedy strikes.... And yet we often walk right past the blight in our own neighborhoods, muttering under our breaths about "that damn neighbor".
Our generosity seems to know no limits, either geographically or culturally. Whether it's a tsunami in the Far East, famine in the Sahara or flooding in my home state, we give with open hearts and magnanimous minds. And yet if it's a matter of what baby carriage a mom uses, someone smoking, a political opinion or God forbid, a parenting opinion, we give with closed hearts and critical minds.
We are hypocrites who point out the hypocrisy in others with glee.
Biblical admonitions abound, but it's really simpler than that: have charity. On both sides. Instead of criticizing, try listening. And instead of dismissing criticisms, try listening. Listen to what the other person is saying -- listen, truly listen -- and try to understand. Really try to understand. Not dismissively, not based upon what you believe or think. But understanding such that you can see why someone else might say, believe, think differently. Listen to your gut -- listen, truly listen -- and try to understand.
As our gut is critical. Our initial responses are usually emotional, one way or the other. Our gut is the heart and soul of who we are, what we understand, what the appropriate response should be. My gut told me a kid was potentially in trouble -- my emotions told me I had no business thinking anything about a kid because I was childless. My gut called bull sh*! as it does not need first-hand experience to make judgment calls. That's the point of your gut instinct -- it's an instinct, not first-hand knowledge.
It why we all need to learn to trust our guts more, to listen more -- to ourselves and to others.
Once you truly understand what the other person is saying -- no matter the issue -- and you also truly understand what your gut is saying in reply, only then will you know what the proper behavior, proper response is.
Whether it is to smile and nod, to address your flaws, or to go over to a young boy and find out what is going on.