Today, I got that feeling along the spiky edge of my gut instinct. As I exited the parent toilets at our little old local-yocal shopping centre, a 30ish year old man walked in. Alone.
My two year old and I nearly bumped into him with our trolley on the way out, so I apologised. He said, “It’s fine” and I wrangled us out of his way.
It suddenly struck me that he was going into the parent bathroom and he looked nothing like a parent. I turned to check and saw him disappear behind the automatically closing door.
I turned back to my baby and praised him for his efforts in the bathroom. Toilet training – isn’t it the worst? Nevertheless, a wee somewhere near a toilet, even if it’s all over me, must be praised.
And we continued to trolley along. We were in a rush to get somewhere on time, you see. And the two year old does nothing quickly – unless it involves chocolate, of course.
That strange occurrence at the bathroom door niggled at the back of my mind.
We left the shopping centre, trudged through the car park and I battled with my bubba who was by now sick of sitting in the trolley.
The image of the man shifted about uncomfortably down in my sternum.
I picked bubba out of the trolley seat to put him in the car and his little eyes looked into mine and smiled. Then the feeling hit my gut instinct: It screamed like a mother with a child in trouble.
It was uncomfortable.
I pulled out some chocolate and he got straight up and I searched the shopping centre number on my phone and rang centre management who sent someone, with urgency, to that toilet. It took about 15 seconds – if that.
So many times I’ve ignored my gut instinct in such a situation. I tell myself I’m panicking because I watched a horrible story on the news just before I came out. That I’m over-reactive when it comes to my children’s safety. That I should be more trusting of people – how terrible of me to think that about that poor man.
Then I feel sick for the rest of the day as my mind whirls with possible terrible consequences.
But making that call was so easy and no one thought me silly. In fact, the girl on the phone saw children’s safety as of significant importance as I do, by the sound of her voice and the rush of her action.
Maybe it was nothing.
Or maybe, a little bubba like mine remains safe. You never know.
I often despair at the evil which seems to be ok on the internet, perpetuating through to real life. I wonder… If we left the screen, and listened, noticed, interacted, cared, looked into the eyes of the ones we love and the ones who need our love – might we put up a good fight against this evil? Is this part of the grand plan?
Whatever my imaginings about a nirvana of goodness, what I do know is that we are given gut instinct for a reason: We must try hard to listen to it, and use it. And maybe along the way we can make the world a better place.