Stranger danger


Jimmie Batchelor

Columnist


A favorite quote of mine, “Strangers are only friends we have yet to meet,” is not always true. I was watching the news as a young mother was telling of a failed abduction of her young son. It happened near his home. It appears that another young boy, though older than her 10 year old son, was being used by two adults in the car to grab a child! I thought I had seen it all when people were using their children to help steal from stores.

This is nothing new. So often I hear people say that in the older days, things like this just didn’t happen. Either the crimes are forgotten or the news didn’t spread like it does today with all of our technology. I believe it is our technology today that spreads the news almost as it happens.

Most of my young life was spent living on army posts. Before my father was sent to Korea, I attended three different schools in the first grade. We had good times running and playing, much freer than today. My own children were given a lot of freedom. When I look back at giving them so much freedom, it frightens me. Someone was watching over us.

I entered first grade in Ft. Bragg, N.C., moved to Atlanta for a short time, next to Ft. Sill, OK, returned to Ft. Bragg to finish first grade. When I was entering second grade, we moved to Columbus, Ga., and remained while my father served in Korea. You might have read my story about his homecoming. Strangers were a constant part of my life.

Living on army posts, I had the run of the fort, frequently riding my bike quite a distance to the officer’s pool during summer. In fact, I rode my bike everywhere. I did ride the school bus, but when I had Girl Scout meetings, I would ride a bike to have a way home. My parents’ rules of going with or even talking to a stranger were embedded in my mind.

I remember several instances where I obeyed those rules even when they could have been put aside. A time such as when my father sent a private to pick me up at the doctor’s office. I don’t remember how that was resolved, but I do know I wouldn’t go with him until I learned it was okay from an adult I knew. There was the night my mother and I were running (literally) late to my dance class. We both fell. Immediately a man standing nearby helped my mother up and swooped me up before I knew it. She had to explain why I was kicking and screaming for him to put me down while he was trying to help me. I still understand in those situations, it is better to be wary than to make the wrong choice.

Another memorable experience during first grade in Oklahoma was when a friend and I were walking home from school in pouring rain. I had on a raincoat, my friend was without, so I handed her my umbrella. Along came a car, stopping for us to get in. They were her parents, but I didn’t know them, so I refused. My friend got into the car, along with my umbrella. I was pretty soaked by the time I got home. When I explained what happened and why I didn’t have my umbrella, my mother understood. She did hesitate in saying they were our neighbors and the parents of that little girl. It would have been alright for me to ride home with them.

My hope is that all parents stress to their children that strangers have no good intentions when asking a child to go with them. As many abductions as we see in the news, this lesson will be one of the most important they learn, such as the words from this young man’s parents were heeded and allowed his escape from abductors. I could see through the trauma of this incident, the look of gratitude and pride on the mother’s face for her son’s quick actions, remembering his parent’s warnings. Let us all do the best we can to protect our children.

Jimmie retired from Henry Co. Senior Services in Stockbridge, where she managed Hidden Valley Senior Center and resided for 38 years. She uses her newfound time writing (for The Times) and enjoying life!