I Returned A Lost Child To Her Mum And Rather Than Thank Me, She Yelled At Me

On a sneaky pop out of the office to pick up my click and collect, I got a lot more that I bargained for when I left with more than just a pair of new shoes.

As I began to power climb the shopping centre stairs in attempt to get those ever elusive steps up, I discovered a young girl also climbing the stairs, albeit much more cautiously. I looked around, in search of her parents but there was no one in sight.

As she saw me the girl, who looked to be three-years-old asked: “Where are the toilets? I need to go to the toilets.”

I replied: “Where is your mum or dad?”

Needing to get to the loo, her parents didn’t seem to be at the top of her priority list. So she continued ambling up the staircase in search of the toilets, but with the steps far too big for her legs to manage she tripped over and began to cry.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

“I want my mummy,” she said beneath her sobs. “Can you help me find her?”

“Of course I can,” I told her.

“Please hold my hand?” she asked me, while at the same time taking hold of mine.

“Well, sure,” I replied.

Clearly the was scared and confused, so I wasn’t about to say no and let go of this tiny, clammy and shaking hand.

Once we reached the top of the stairs we found ourselves in the women’s wear department and began to walk down the aisle toward the registers. Somewhere between lingerie and summer PJs three concerned staff members saw us and relief immediately washed over their faces.

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Moments later, the girl’s mother, who was standing to the side also saw her daughter had found her way back to her safely but instead of relief, her expression resembled complete and utter rage.

She stomped over to us and grabbed her daughter’s hand from mine, almost aggressively and then shouted at me.

“What do you think you are doing holding my daughter’s hand?” she accusingly asked.

It was one of those moments where the total unexpectedness of a situation blindsides you and you have no words to reply. The sense of shock and utter confusion paralysed me.

So, instead of saying anything, I just stood there.

Shona with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

“Well?” She barked at me. “Don’t you know how inappropriate it is to hold a child’s hand that you don’t even know?”

I still had nothing to say, no reply to what this mother was asking me. In my mind, I had just helped her lost daughter to find her mum and although I didn’t deserve a celebratory parade and a medal for bravery, I thought at least a thank you was appropriate.

In a huff the woman yanked her daughter by the hand and angrily walked away. The three staff members and I all stood in the aisle completely still, speechless and bewildered as to what had just happened.

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After what felt like minutes, they thanked me for my help and apologised about what had transpired and while I was appreciative of that, I felt conflicted about the entire situation.

I headed back to work with an all-consuming feeling of disbelief)and for the rest of the day it dominated my thoughts.

As a mum of two young girls myself, I tried to put myself in this mother’s position. I thought about recent events that may have tainted her perception of what had actually happened or of my good intentions.

Shona with her youngest daughter. Image: Supplied

I thought about what I would do and how I would react if a stranger was holding my three-year-old’s hand. And while I can’t actually put myself in this woman’s shoes or truly see things from her perspective, my feelings would be different.

I know that if my either of my daughters were lost and a stranger had helped find them and while doing this had taken their hand because they were scared or couldn’t get up the stairs themselves, I would be thankful.

Instead of immediately yelling at them and accusing them of inappropriate behaviour, once seeing that my daughter was safe I would instead, say the words, thank you.

Featured image: Supplied

This article first appeared on October 25, 2019.