Boys And Turtles

 

A couple of weeks ago I was driving my daughter to swim practice.  It was a typical “Christina” weekday morning.  In other words, I was running late and annoyed because Tay had been telling me “Mommy it’s time to go!” every five minutes for the past half hour.  (I digress.)  As I stated I was running late and annoyed when I made a left turn on a particularly precarious road.  As I made that turn I noticed a small turtle on the right side of the road poised to cross to the woods on the opposite side.  This crooked wooded road is full of blind turns that make it dangerous for my Texas sized truck, nevermind a tiny turtle.  

A small voice inside of me piped up, “Christina, go back and help the turtle.”  Then came my more insistent one, “No! I am already late! It’s just a turtle. I can totally help it on my way back home…it’s just five minutes.”

I won.  I continued on, deposited Tay at her practice pool and made my way home.  As I made a left turn onto that crooked  road an hour and half later, yes an hour and a half, I once again saw the tiny turtle in the same spot still poised to cross the street.  Oops! I had forgotten all about the poor thing. I passed him up…again.  I was late!!! I had to pick up Tay.  It would only be like another five minutes!  

I grabbed Tay and we headed back towards the turtle. I was determined to help him.  I would not forget this time.  I would stop.  As we approached the area where I knew him to be, I spotted him..same side of the road, same position.  Funny.  He was in the same position.  He hadn’t moved at all! I know turtles are slow, but that slow?  Really?

No worries, Tiny Turtle!  Christina to the rescue!  I will save you!

I pulled the truck into a grassy area on the side of the road and scampered across the street praying I did not get hit by a car.  I arrived safely and plucked the turtle from the gravel of the road by his shell with a great deal of self satisfaction.  Then I looked at him, really looked at him and my shoulders fell.  There was a reason Tiny Turtle was only poised to cross the street…he was dead! His shell was cracked and his poor little head smashed.  Turtles were in fact not that slow!  I set him down in the grass away from the road and dejectedly walked back to the truck.

Tay queried, “What happened?”  My reply was simple and straightforward, “ He died. I was too late.”

Now wait! This is not a “HELP THE TURTLES CROSS” PSA.  There is more.  Read on! (although helping turtles cross is not a bad idea.)

A couple of weeks later to present day; I am headed to mass with my youngest, David, and running late..again.  I was on a main street of a neighborhood. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. People were out running and walking their dogs.  The sun was shining and promised to warm up the day enough for pool time later.  As I passed the community pool I noticed a boy wearing black skull and bones pajama bottoms with a black and red stripy shirt sitting on the path leading to the pool. The path was nestled between deep green bushes that contrasted sharply with the boy’s jet black hair.  I noticed that hair, because his knees were pulled up to his chest and his head rested on them. His hair was spiked and jutted out about his head.  I could not see his face, only the dark spiky hair and a pair of white earbud wires hanging loosely from his ears.  There was also a grey camouflage backpack lying askew just a few feet from him.  I wondered if he was okay as I drove past him.

That is when the voice started again, not so quiet as with the tiny turtle. Louder this time,

“Stop.”

“I can’t stop. If I stop, I  really will be late. Not just kind of late but late!”

“Go back.”

“Surely he is fine. He does not want to be bothered. He’ll think I’m a weirdo.”

“Tiny Turtle.”

That was enough!  I turned the truck around at a conveniently placed cul de sac and went back.  I had just passed a couple of runners. Surely one of them stopped to check on the boy.  As I passed the area where he sat I noticed he was not looking down anymore.  I thought to myself perhaps he is okay and I do not need to stop.  In reply, I heard, “Stop” very insistent.  I pulled into the parking lot of the pool and parked behind him.  He did not turn around.  I got out of the car and gingerly approached him.  Still he did not turn around.   I glanced at the backpack lying near him trying to gauge if its’ bulge was from clothes for a runaway. His  legs were still drawn up to his chest,  earbuds still dangled from his ears and he still had not turned around.   I continued forward, determined and resolved.

“Excuse me.” I addressed him and he turned his head towards me. I really expected to see some distressed, tear streaked, red eyed face with maybe black eyeliner around the eyes. Nope. He had an earnest honest face with clear bright eyes.  I continued, “Are you okay?” He blinked and nodded in the affirmative.

“ I was passing by and I saw you and I just wanted to check on you.”

“Oh that’s so sweet of you. I’m just waiting on my mom.”

(I was a little taken aback by the “that’s so sweet of you”. I did not know teenage boys said things like that. This kid was not at all what I imagined )

“Well, okay you were sitting with your head down..so if you’re okay..”

“Yeah, my mom will be here soon. Thanks.”

“You don’t need to call her?”

He shook his head in the negative.  I was reluctant to leave, although he seemed fine. The voice, “That’s it. Go.” Me, “But maybe I should offer to wait with him.”

“No, Christina. That is it..go.”

So I got back in the truck and left.  David asked why we had stopped and I told him I had noticed the boy sitting there and I wanted to check on him.  Sometimes people need to know that someone cares about them, even if that someone is just a stranger.  It might be just what they need to get them through whatever is going on.  Admittedly I had imagined the worse with this kid and had gotten something else entirely. He could have gotten the pool hours confused and really was just waiting on his mom.  Still despite his appearance and insistence that everything was fine, maybe something else was going on.  Maybe God sent me back to him so he would know that someone did in fact care.  Maybe God sent me back because he knew I needed to feel appreciated, and the comment of “that’ so sweet of you” would make me feel good. I do not know.  All I know is I did not want him to end up like the Tiny Turtle, broken on the side of the street;  not one person  stopping to help  because they were too busy,  did not know how, assumed someone else would, or just did not care.  Sometimes a simple “Are you okay?” is all someone needs.  Watch out for those tiny turtles in the world.  Watch out for those boys sitting alone.

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