A few months ago, I was shopping at a supermarket nearby. We’d only recently moved house so the stores were all very new and unfamiliar. I was just ducking in for a yummy gluten and dairy free treat to devour at the movies (cos there’s never that kind of option at the candy bar for me!) I ventured through the aisles in search of the ‘health food section’ acknowledging the people around me with a smile as I walked by. While I considered the options before me, through my periphery, I was aware of the young lads to my left, who I had only just passed. They were discretely separating a choc Sanitarium UP&GO from its six pack and then began the joyous slurping down of their drink.
Now, we’ve all (I think!) done that... Super hungry whilst at the grocery store, opened and then tucked right into that delicious snack to get us through to the next meal opportunity! It quietens the hangries and gives us the feel goods to complete our necessary shop, find your car, schlep the heavy bags back home to unpack them and eventually cook dinner.
Because you pay for your consumed item at the checkout, right??
Well, unfortunately, I witnessed these guys dumping their empty UP&GO box on the shelf, hoping to hide the evidence and skadoodle their juvenile tooshies as quickly as hip hop style possible outta there, without having to pay a cent for the convenience.
Let me clarify.
These boys just broke the law right in front of me. And now, I had a choice...
Tell a store manager where police could potentially get involved or give them a chance.
For anyone who knows me, you’ll be aware that I am indeed quite short. So you can only imagine my intimidation when I warmly approached these two fellas, my heart pounding as I looked up to greet their confused eyes…
I kindly confronted their actions and whilst initially trying to deny what I saw happen, they were quick to own up and make amends.
My suggestion to go together to retrieve the empty box, grab the opened pack and pay for it all at the check out, was welcomed.
The potential stealing act was quashed but I wasn’t...
I looked into their eyes and softly questioned their actions. Staring them down, I spoke truths to both of their innocent faces…
“You are worth so much more than the decisions you were just about to make and I care way too much about both of you to let that happen. I don’t know you, but, I care.”
Their replies brought tears.
“No one gives a shit about what happens to me, not even my mum. She’s too wasted most of the time to notice that I’m not even home.”
We sat outside that supermarket for a while and I learned that these two beautiful humans are only 12 and 14 years old, live in drug addicted homes where they rarely visit, their biological fathers bailed years ago, they’re hungry and they are lost. They weren’t from around here, just hanging and filling in time.
I offered genuine support, suggested nurturing and helpful centres they could seek counselling and housing from, gave them my phone number and reassured them to think of me before they were ever tempted to make a choice like that again. The craziest thing is, they actually had the cash to pay for their drink. They just wanted to feel the thrill… feel something.
Hopefully, through my non-judgemental, non-confrontational, kind hearted and love filled approach, I may have been able to role model a better way.
Hopefully, they’ll remember that, “Somebody cared a whole lot about me tonight.”
I’d be ignorant to think that many of you out there, haven’t stumbled upon a similar story of love intervening bad decisions… But, what I am noticing is that in this busy, chaotic, stressy and fast paced lifestyle that we currently exist in, people seem far more tired, far more fed up, far more sleep deprived and far more focused on themselves to have the extra ability to notice and then have the energy to act.
I didn’t care if I missed my movie.
I only cared about missing this opportunity to be the one to make a difference.
So right now you might be thinking that I’m big noting myself or that this is just a big self-love fest…
I cringe a little thinking that you may be thinking that!
I think about my childhood and wonder where I’d be if someone had intervened for me? What if someone had been the one to make a difference in my life. Stand up for my innocence. Act in order to save me…
After going public with the sexual abuse I endured, I heard second hand apologies from a few of my primary school teachers who suspected something like that was happening to me but who chose to stay silent.
Imagine if they acted…
I live my life with the thought, what if I can be ‘the one’ for someone, even one child so they never have to recover from childhood trauma, from neglect or from nobody giving a shit… then my life is meaningful, my childhood trauma can be turned into something good in this world.
So my friends, screens and devices down for a mini, heads up, ears and eyes open!
What if you’re the one for someone today?
What if you’re the change they need to experience in their life today?
What if you’re the one to truly give a shit?!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Naomi Hunter is a primary school teacher, a yoga instructor and the author of four children’s books, including ABIA nominated A Secret Safe to Tell and Even Mummy Cries. She is a passionate advocate for child safety and draws on her many childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, mental health issues, experiences with an eating disorder and living in a stressful and often violent home to positively impact children and their families through her writing.
Naomi is honest in her delivery, nurturing in her manner and passionate in her quest for empowered children across the world.