Originally posted here on Medium.com
Today I saved a little boy who walked out into the street.
I was walking near the park when I saw him trotting down the hill. He was completely by himself, no more than 2 years old. A cute little thing awash in innocence and wonder at the world. I see little ones over at the park all the time, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. I stood there watching from across the street, waiting for a parent to run out and grab him. But when I realized there was no one in sight, and he was heading towards the street, my instincts kicked into overdrive.
I started running for him as he made his way towards the sidewalk. There were cars coming in both directions and he was moving pretty fast. I leapt out in front of traffic and ran across the street, grabbing him just as he stepped off the curb. People slammed on their breaks and jumped out of their cars. Someone screamed in anger, “Where are his parents?!” I had no idea. My heart was racing. I just took the boy’s hand and walked him back towards the park.
We were walking up the hill when a man surfaced. He wasn’t moving quickly, but he was headed in my direction, so I assumed it was the child’s owner. I picked the boy up and carried him the rest of the way, not willing to let him go easily. As I approached the man, I could tell that he was older, possibly the boy’s grandfather. I didn’t know what to do or what to say, but my heart settled a bit when I saw him. He came towards me with arms open wide and tears streaming down his face. He scooped the boy up and hugged him tight, saying “thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over again in Chinese.
I could have scolded the man or acted like he wasn’t capable. I could have given him a hard time or made him feel worse than he already did. But when I watched the way he loved and kissed that little boy, I was reminded that he was only human too. He had simply made a mistake. And in that moment, he was beholden for having learned an important lesson without having to pay a tragic price.
After an unsettling week in the world, it’s easy to forget about the amazing ways we do connect every single day. We are all different yet we are all the same. This man and I weren’t even able to speak the same language. We were from different countries, different generations, different backgrounds. But there we were, both feeling distressed and both incredibly human. Both full of fear for what could have happened, both full of love for this little boy, and both full of gratitude for the other having been there.
While I’m still in shock, I will never forget what it felt like to look back at the park from across the street. To watch the man hug and carry and kiss the boy home.
There really are wonderful people out there. You just have to be one.