This is a guest column. Margaret Figert is a retired publisher (conservative-somewhat-libertarian politically) in South Dakota and Nebraska. I am reposting some of her column without any comments, just remarks in an afterword in the next column. This follows up my commentaries on “innocent until…” – Nathan Barton
Three more children were shown on TV over the weekend being rescued after being locked alone in overheated vehicles. One died, one was resuscitated, and I think the third one lived too.
I don’t dare condemn the adults responsible for these atrocities because, as my own short-term memory plays games with me, I could become unintentionally guilty of the same crime. I never have and pray I never will.
These parents’ mental torture must be unbearable as they are condemned by the public and, probably, their own family and do any time given them by a court of law until they finally realize that God forgives and that they can and should forgive themselves.
Then I happened across a September, 2018 issue of Good Housekeeping magazine and decided to glance through it. An article by homemaker and mother Kim Brooks, who lives in Chicago, caught my eye. [See article on-line. NAB]
The headline read, “The Mistake I’m Not Sure I Made” and indicated how her quick dash into a store turned into a two-year legal nightmare after a stranger videoed her son alone in her car and called the police.
In “The Mistake…”, Mrs. Brooks related how she was packing her family for a trip home after visiting her mom in Virginia and remembered her four-year-old son’s headphones had broken. She left her napping two-year-old daughter with her mom and told her son, who was playing in his grandma’s yard, that she was going to the store, asking him if he wanted to stay with his grandma.
He said, no, he wanted to come with her, so they took off in her mom’s minivan and drove through the sleepy subdivision where Kim had grown up, where kids ride bikes, squirrels thrive, there was no such thing as daytime parking lot car theft and most people don’t bother to lock their doors. She recalled that the day was a cloudy, cool 47 degrees.
When she pulled into a strip mall and parked, her son announced he didn’t want to go in with her – he was busy tapping animations on a screen. She opened the minivan’s windows a bit, child-locked the doors and double-clicked her keys to set the car alarm, leaving her son alone in the car less than five minutes. When she returned, he was still playing his game, smiling.
She and the two children flew home and found her husband waiting for them with a terrible look on his face. He told Kim to call her mom in Virginia.
Her mom was crying and related that when she’d gotten home from taking her daughter and grandchildren to the airport, police had been waiting in her driveway.
Kim finally pieced things together. A stranger saw her leave her son in the car and came upon him after she’d gone into the store. The stranger recorded the boy playing his game, the minivan’s license plate, recorded her driving away and called the police. Someone had filed a complaint but for what? Her child wasn’t in danger. She hadn’t broken any laws. Yet, someone saw a child alone in a car, assumed he was endangered and told authorities instead of waiting for her to return and talking with her.
The story becomes even more stunning. It begins on page 81.
The upshot I took from Kim Brooks’ article is that while otherwise decent people have unwittingly and regretfully killed or injured their own children by forgetting they’d left them alone for hours in overheated vehicles, not everyone who briefly leaves their child in a vehicle is necessarily similarly irresponsible or committing a criminal act.
The stranger could have handled this situation completely differently and turned it into a winning situation for both himself, the boy and the mother. He could easily have stood nearby and waited for Mrs. Brooks to return while he watched over her son to make sure he stayed safe. He could have acted out of a sense of compassionate love and kindness, instead of being afraid for the boy and sentencing his mother to mental anguish as she was taken to court.
[NAB: … Margaret then relates a story about seeing a young mom briefly step away from a shopping cart with her three children in, and around it, and her immediate fears as a mother and grandmother, until the woman returned. She thought about doing something and did – kept an eye on the children for the few minutes the mom was gone. Nothing more. Her column continues…]
The stranger in Mrs. Brooks’ case could have done the same – acted out of protective love and not fear – and saved everyone this ordeal. If you decide to read the article, note what this situation has done to her four-year-old son.
It’s easy to see, too, that citizens who’ve realized that police aren’t called and have no reason to respond before a crime is committed, are becoming more involved in preventing crimes where and when possible. How many times do we read that armed bystanders have prevented worse casualties, which obviously makes an excellent case against gun control?
Don’t most people deserve the benefit of the doubt, which would have resolved Mrs. Brooks’s case in a good and positive way for everyone involved? People who immediately assume only the worst can easily make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.
[NAB: Why am I publishing this? Stay tuned, please.]