Last week was Spring break in our area and the weather was as nice as it ever gets around here. Sean and I took the opportunity to visit a nearby park that has a sizeable sandbox, some major playground equipment, a trail that winds through a wooded area and even a shallow rocky riverbed that is perfect for skipping stones. In short – little boy heaven.
Apparently everyone in the entire school district had the same idea as the park was swarming with kids. Sean and I set up camp in the sandbox where we were building infrastructure for a future sand castle development when a little girl about seven or eight sat down beside us and took up residence.
“How do you get blind?” she asked me out of the blue. I have that affect on children, they see my wisdom and they are drawn to me. Either that or they can smell the tootsie rolls I keep in my pocket.
I looked around to see where her mother might be but there were so many kids running here and there, it was hard to tell who belonged to whom.
“Um, well, there are a number of ways people can become blind….” I started to explain.
And then I hesitated because I wasn’t quite sure where and how far to go with this conversation and where in the heck was this kid’s mother anyway.
“There are a 100 blind people at my school!” she exclaimed
“Or really? 100? That is a lot of blind people.”
“Well, really there’s just one.”
“Oh. Just one.”
Sean and I continued our work in the sandbox and she continued to sit nearby and twirl her long ponytail and tell fantastical tales. I would occasionally look up at her and smile. It’s hard to know in a situation like that how much to engage a child. I was, afterall, a stranger. To be guarded in such a manner, against a child, works against the very core of being, my being that is now a mother and programmed to look out for all children.
“My mom yells at me,” she offered.
“One time she hit me, right here,” she said pointing to a small cut above her eye.
“Oh really?” I asked trying not to sound alarmed.
“Sometimes she throws me across the room.”
Oh my, oh my, how I wish she hadn’t said that. It’s hard to know when to believe kids. Just a few minutes earlier, this same little girl had told me there are 100 blind people at her school. Sean will tell you he has a farm in Canada and a girlfriend named Cindy, neither of which is true.
I pray to God that he doesn’t tell strangers that I hit him or throw him across the room.
But if it were true, I pray to God that a grown up would believe him and do something about it.
Then she got up and ran off. She disappeared into the sea of running, sliding, swinging, bicycling, screaming, squealing children. I tried to follow her with my eyes. Sean tugged on my arm, he had sand in his eye. When I look up again she had vanished.
And if I had watched her run back to her mother, what then? What would I do? What would you do?
The lonely little girl in the sandbox with the long ponytail left me with a big question mark and a broken heart.