I tucked Chase into bed tonight, closing my eyes as I kissed his forehead. And I saw that man’s face again.
During a quick stop at a local Books a Million with my two boys, I was on the hunt for author Mary Weber’s new YA sci-fi story, Reclaiming Shiloh Snow–a story birthed from her heart for young people caught in human trafficking.
I had no idea how God would yank my eyes open about that very thing, minutes later.
Older son Cole asked to look at self-defense and martial arts books. Because he’s 5’10 and nearly fourteen, I didn’t hesitate letting him cross the main aisle. Chase wanted to check out Legos and Lego books. Since I’d only be a minute or two, I gave him permission to look at Legos while I quickly checked for the book.
The YA section is three aisles from the middle grade and Lego section, so after coming up empty-handed I headed toward Chase. Less than two minutes passed since I’d watched him hurry down the long middle aisle, toward the middle grade area.
I glanced right–Cole perused self-defense and martial arts books. I said his name, he looked up and nodded. I motioned for him to hurry and told him I’d be with his brother. As I rounded the corner, I immediately saw Chase.
With a man standing a few feet past him, intently watching my child.
Caucasian, above-average height, slim-to-medium build. Tan shorts hitting just at his knees. White t-shirt under a dull orange jacket, zipped halfway up. His orange ball-cap was nearly the same shade as his jacket, with medium brown hair peeking out and a full beard reaching just below his chin.
Perhaps in his mid thirties, he could easily have been a father looking for books for his child. But he wasn’t. He was scoping out my child.
Fire and anger and maternal wildcat emerged. I growled Chase’s name and stepped toward him. The man looked up, meeting my eyes.
I’m still analyzing what I saw. Surprise. Acceptance. A shutting down, moving away that wasn’t frenzied but calm, purposeful.
I glared at him as he melted away, heading toward the back of the middle grade section, his orange ball-cap visible above the shelves. I watched that ball-cap skirting the middle grade section, turning toward the comic book section. I followed, Chase and Cole with me, staring as he pretended to read a comic book, then made his way to the back entrance of the store, which emptied into the parking lot.
We lost him for a couple minutes, but saw him again as he sat cross-legged on the floor near the magazines (on the other side of the store, no children in sight, though it seemed a heavy-set woman stood beside him).
In retrospect I wish I’d done more than mention it to the cashier as we checked out. Once we got home, I called the store and spoke to a helpful young man who asked for a detailed description and thanked me for calling.
Still, it didn’t feel like I’d done enough.
PARENTS, please hear me on this. Talk to your children about this. If nothing else, I’m thankful this situation allowed me to speak at length with our boys and share this experience as a reminder to other parents.
Cole said he would’ve “taken that man down if he tried to touch Chase.” But these disgusting animals have different tactics for different age groups. Chase isn’t tall, but he’s solid. The man would’ve had a difficult time carrying him out of the store.
But he might have said, “Your mom is outside, hurt. She fell and the ambulance is coming. She’s calling for you. Hurry, I’ll take you to her.”
Talk to your children about this. Come up with a code word, a plan of action. Something to help any age child if they’re in this situation. My boys were aware of stranger danger, but not to the depth they are now. And because they’re 11 1/2 and 13, my level of concern for this had decreased.
Because make no mistake.
There is a business in this. A devil-delighted, evil, soul-stealing monetary side to human trafficking that makes me want to vomit and scream and do something savage because it’s about
C H I L D R E N.
The most H E L P L E S S among us.
To those caught in the web: W E W I L L N E V E R S T O P L O O K I N G
“Open your mouth for the speechless.” (Prov. 31:8)
The man in the orange ball-cap and jacket? I WILL NEVER STOP LOOKING FOR YOU.
Links to find out more about human trafficking and donate:
Batey Rehab Project (BRP)
Wellspring Living–White Umbrella Campaign
Out of Darkness
The Exodus Road
The Potters Hands Foundation
Operation Underground Railroad
Place of Hope