When I was nine, I was home at night at least once with my 3 younger siblings, the youngest of which was a baby.
I remember being quite young, and in a car outside of a place my mother went into. We (my sister and I?) had to wait for her. The windows were open, and we were all by ourselves, not even sure where she was, what she was doing, or who she was doing it with. If anything happened, there certainly could have been a problem.
In my young teens, many days I hung out with a friend, and we rode our bikes everywhere. One day we were in a card shop, and some older man asked us to help him pick out a card for someone. There were times he was standing right in back of me, way too lose. Odds are there was no "someone."
In elementary school, I was walking home one day, and it got a little misty. A car came up to me and the man said he was there to take me home. I am not even sure my grandparents knew I was coming home, and I think there were things that just did not make sense to me at the time. I think I told him that my grandparents said I should never accept rides from strangers. He told me my grandparents had sent him...probably taking my cue. I declined. When I got home I found out that they knew nothing about the man. What a surprise, right?
I think about these things every time I hear a story in the news about what is OK/not OK for kids to do on their own, and when a child is hurt or disappears. Has the world become more dangerous, or is it how it always has been, and we are just much more aware, given how quickly and easily news spreads?
I am not a parent, but if I was, I think I would be greatly challenged by how things seem to have become. The freakiest piece of the above is most certainly the last thing I mentioned. If I had taken that ride, would I have lived? If I had not had the "no rides from strangers" reinforced over and over, would I have been more willing to go with him?
Even as an adult, I walked up to a stranger's car once. He was flirting/interested in me. Or at least seemed to be. As I stood there, I got incredibly uncomfortable. What if he had a gun? What if...? It turned out Ok, but as we all know, it doesn't always.
How do we know how best to be? How do we not live a life making choices based on fear? We can all be vulnerable, regardless of age.
I have taken chances with strangers, and been just fine. But that doesn't mean there weren't some bumps along the way. One time, when I was about 20, a friend of mine suggested we hitchhike while in The Netherlands. We got in the car with a guy who barely spoke English, and we were left at a checkpoint that we thought would be active, and with traffic, only to find out it was fairly isolated. I don't remember what happened, and how we ultimately got to where we got to, but I remember being angry and scared.
But it turned out Ok.
I often tell people we need to listen to our gut and inner voice. I suspect that is one thing that can help keep us safe when dealing with uncertainties and the unknown.
After all, if we never take chances with strangers, we will never have new friends and new opportunities and experiences. Sometimes we just wind up with an incredible story to tell.
I just thought of something that happened when I was visiting Atlanta by myself. Boy. That could have been really messed up. I think I will save that for another day. But, oh, what a story, and, boy, how much trouble I might have gotten myself into - without even trying.