I have a rational fear. I fear children getting lost.
When we go somewhere with our family, we do our best to explain the place, the circumstances, the time frame and the events clearly. As much as we can, but clearly.
We mention to the children which destination we are heading off to, especially on family trips, but even when we are going to the supermarket or department store, cinema or stroll. We explain that a place might be crowded and busy. We state who is going to hold whose hand and that we must always maintain a distance at which we can both see each other. We have written our contact details on their backpacks and they have a business card of ours on them. And we do our best to enjoy our outing in a safe way. Without panic, but always alert.
This is how we have done things so far and fortunately, to this day, we are all together.
When I was two and a half years old, I got lost. In a huge department store in Toronto, Canada. I was with my parents and my sister, Vicky was a baby then in her stroller. I cannot say that I remember anything else from that age except that day!
I remember every single detail but from the moment I realized that mom and dad were not around until the moment I reunited with my father. Nothing before that and not much after that, until, of course, I got older.
” I am in front of several television screens (probably at the display of an electronics shop) absorbed in a cartoon they had on. When the scene changes, I snap out of my magnetic attraction to the screen and realize I am alone. Yes, there are lots of people around me but I am alone because mom and dad are not next to me. Cleverly for that age, I kneel and on all four, look around to see if I can see my parents’ shoes walking around. No. I stand up again. In shock. I cannot even cry. Speechless. Even my body temperature feels weird. I hear a woman’s voice asking me if I am lost. I do not answer. I do not even turn to look at her. She told me something else but I could not hear her. All of a sudden, I found myself in an office and the woman’s voice said that they would help me find my parents. They asked me my name and I just said, Gina. I heard a man’s voice saying something and then my name. In a matter of moments, dad came through the door. Such relief. Such relief. And then my memory goes blank again into the rest of my toddlerdom.”
I am so unbelievably grateful to the lady who did the right thing. I thank her so much that she will never know.
Whenever I see a child with that look on his/her face, I immediately react. Even if I am with my children. Even if the child eventually is not lost and in a few seconds the parent appears from the cash register of the supermarket. I must admit that I dread such moments. I must say that I want to help out every time this happens. I must admit that not many people notice when such a thing happens or just react by saying ” Oh poor, thing! He must have lost his mommy” … And then what?
Whether we have had such an experience or not, we must all react actively, immediately and properly.
That is also one of the reasons that we support, as much as we can, the invaluable work of The Smile of the Child (http://www.hamogelo.gr/1.2/home). Besides, a billion other invaluable actions they have been conducting since their foundation to help children smile (hamogelo in Greek means smile), they have actively participated in finding missing children. We can all help. We can.
Please do not leave a child wαndering alone. Act. Try to help the child get to the authorities or the management of the place you are at. Please do not just look at the situation passively. It is so simple to help. To do the right thing.
During the summer break, we we very lucky to spend a couple of days at an educational amusement park in Germany. While Maggie and Nicholas were playing at one of the activity centers, I noticed a very young boy, about four years old, quietly crying alone. With that look on his face. Others noticed him too. They had their children with them and could not stop, I guess. I had to spoil Maggie and Nicholas’ fun moment. They know my story about getting lost and they know that we must help. Even if we have to spoil our fun. I would rather spoil a lot of things than spoil a child’s life. We took the reluctant child to the central offices of the amusement park. He had no contact details on him. He did not know English. Maggie spoke to him in German translating what I was telling her. No. We did not do something heroic. We did the only right thing. That is what I told Maggie and Nicholas. And then we went back to play.
This is dedicated to all the volunteers of The Smile of the Child. I have had the honour of meeting the President of this Non-Governmental Organization, Mr Yannopouls, and Ms Kavallieraki, one of the huge contributors to this unbelievable work. Their team can give answers to your questions concerning all aspects of children, whether you ask as a family, a school or an individual.
Do not worry children. We will all do our best to help you get back to your homes safe and sound.