I’ll never forget the day my friend called to say that she had been accused of abusing one of her foster children. She was crying so hard I could hardly understand what she was saying. She finally calmed down enough to tell me that the little five year old had bolted out the front door and had headed straight into the busy street in front of their house.
She had to put the baby down in a safe spot before she could run after the 5 year old, and in that few short seconds the one that got away was just a couple steps from running right in front of a car that was barreling down the street. She was screaming for the child to stop while watching that car out of the corner of her eye. Her longer legs helped her make up the distance, and she grabbed the child hard by the shoulder and jerked her back just as the car drove by far over the speed limit for their street.
The child fell back and hit hard on the sidewalk. My friend’s fingernails were tangled in the little girl’s hair, and the child shrieked as my friend pulled her hair as she tried to pull her hand out the child’s mess of a head of hair. My friend described the scene as something that would’ve been an opportunity for a “teaching moment” had it not drawn the attention of a neighbor who had complained before about the noise that came from her very large, loud family. Evidently the neighbor called the police because my friend was still in the yard trying to calm the child and explain the dangers of running out into the street when the black and white patrol car pulled up.
The child instantly began screaming when she saw the car. It hadn’t been that long ago that the same kind of car came to take her away from her Mommy. She cried herself to sleep every night because she missed her Mommy. She wasn’t old enough to understand that her mother was addicted and unable to care for her and her baby brother. All she knew was that she was with a strange lady who just jerked her by the shoulder and pulled her hair when all she was trying to do was go find her Mommy.
When the officer pulled up, he saw a woman crouched down, holding both shoulders of a crying child, with her face just inches from the child’s face. As he began to walk toward them, the child erupted in screams and started hysterically struggling to get away. The officer couldn’t have known that he and his vehicle were the cause of the child’s anxiety. Based on his observations, the report from the neighbor, and the child screaming about the strange lady pulling her hair, the officer had probable cause for a charge of child abuse.
Ultimately, my friend was cleared, but her story, and the many others like it, illustrate the truth that sometimes acts of kindness, like pulling a child out of a dangerous situation, can hurt both the giver and the receiver of the kindness.
Even when it hurts, do the kind thing.