Dude has a good buddy that he’s known since he was about three years old. This friend’s father died when he was a baby, so he’s never had a dad and grew up with just his mother.
Kevin has been his surrogate father throughout the years and has tried to play a positive role in his life.
We used to see this kid every Friday night. The kid’s grandparents are our next door neighbor so yeah, he virtually lived at our house all throughout grade school and middle school.
Now that he’s in high school, is driving his own car and has his own job, we see him a lot less.
He’s a good kid, but he’s a bit on the wild side. I’m assuming it’s because he didn’t have a strong male influence in his life growing up, but wild or no, he really is a good kid.
He just …… happens to FIND trouble.
Case in point: He came over the other night to show us the work he had done on his new car. He’s been ordering parts from the ‘net and rebuilding it as he goes along.
It’s all very impressive and we should absolutely be impressed by this kid. He’s staying out of trouble … for the most part.
But as we’re standing there, oohing and aahing over his handiwork, he starts to tell us a story about how he was at an ice cream joint one night and these guys jumped out of their car, pulled him out of his car and just started beating him up.
Okay. I know this kid pretty well. And though I’m sure he’s telling us the truth, I’m also sure it’s not the ENTIRE truth. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen. I’m sure it probably does in bigger cities, but we’re in po-dunk Springfield, our crime problems just haven’t escalated to that point.
Anyway, the reason I’m telling you this is because Dude is standing there and absorbing all of this and with each dramatic punch these hoodlums are delivering to this friend’s face, Dude’s eyes get bigger and bigger.
I can see he’s been spooked a bit.
After the friend left, I had a little conversation with Dude.
“You know that trouble seems to just follow D around, don’t you? I’m sure there is more to the story.”
“You know that when you start driving by yourself, it’s very unlikely a group of guys are going to jump you, right?”
Dude grunts again.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen on a daily basis. I mean, unless you provoke someone or …”
At this point, I realize I’m burying myself in quick sand and I end my brilliant speech with
“It’s not going to happen to you. Don’t worry about it.”
Yeah, brilliant mom. Way to calm the kid down.
So, fast forward to today.
After the boys got their hair cut, I coaxed Dude into driving up to Best Buy so we could look at some phones. I promised Jazz that when he got to high school, he could have his own cell phone.
Well. Here we are. High school. So, since the phone they have now has a ton of minutes on it and Jazz will most likely be the one who needs his phone more, we decided we’d just buy Dude his own phone and give the old one to Jazz.
Still with me?
Me and Dude, we’re at Best Buy. And since we go through Virgin Mobile (because we’re a pre-paid minutes sort of family), we looked at Best Buy’s selection of Virgin Mobile phones.
Only, their selection? Is tiny.
So, I suggested to Dude that we just go online and see what they had available (in hindsight, we should have just done that to begin with. When has the internet EVER let me down?).
We’re leaving Best Buy and it’s pouring rain. Of course, I don’t have an umbrella so I try and coax Dude into driving his car up to the building to pick me up.
He gets angry.
I get extremely annoyed. After all, I’m not asking the kid to drive cross-country, just across the freaking parking lot! Grr.
So, I tell him to go ahead and unlock the door and I’ll follow him.
He runs ahead and is reaching for his door handle when a man stops him.
I immediately forget about the rain and high tail it over to see what is going on.
Dude looks frozen. And not from cold. He’s stiff and awkward looking and I’m suddenly running various perversions through my mind. My adrenaline starts pumping and I think I could have seriously kicked that man’s ass, I was that prepared to defend my child.
I reach the duo and ask what’s going on.
“My girlfriend left the lights on,” the man says and weakly gestures to his van that is sitting directly in front of Dude’s car. “I was wondering if you could give me a jump.”
I’m certain my chest visibly deflated in relief. He wasn’t a perv, he was just a guy who needed some help.
I gave him an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry. But we don’t have any cables.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” the man replied. “I’ve got some.”
I’m now aware that I have an impressionable teenager hanging on our every word. And we’re all standing in the rain and getting quite soaked. So, I did the only thing a God-fearing person would do in this situation.
“Absolutely. Let me pull the car around.”
I get into the driver’s seat and Dude continues to stand outside, in the rain, looking shell-shocked.
His expression says it all, “What just happened?? Was I just approached by a … by a … strange human?!?”
I tap on the car window to get Dude’s attention and motion for him to get into the car.
I pull the car around and endure awkward moments and dirty looks from other people in the parking lot who can’t figure out why I’m blocking their path while positioning Dude’s car in front of the guy’s van.
By this time, this poor man is completely soaked to the skin. And he looks so apologetic and miserable my heart goes out to him.
He pops the hood (I couldn’t even tell him which side the battery was on – that’s how clueless I am when it comes to cars), he hooks up the cables (and I have a momentary vision of him getting electrocuted because remember? It’s raining), and he quickly gets his van started.
He unhooks the cables and I roll my window down. I didn’t even hear the engine turn over and I’m still not sure, hours later, whether he really DID get his car started or not.
And now I’m a bit suspicious, but I don’t say anything to Dude.
“Do I owe you anything?” The man asks.
“Oh good grief, no,” I answer him back. I give him a little wave and we drive off.
After we got home, Dude and I talked about the incident. He acted so out-of-sorts and freaked out that I assumed it was because he still has this “thing” about wanting to be invisible to the world and OH MY GOSH, people scare the crap out of him. (It’ll be interesting to see how he handles a job).
And though I’m certain his aversion to people was part of the reason he acted so … awkward, he told me that he thought the guy was going to jump him.
Ah. A light bulb went off in my head and the whole friend story came back to me. Of course. He’s now not only wary of people, he might even be a tad afraid of them.
And that’s probably due, in part, to the story his friend just told him.
So, we had another talk about how you need to be cautious in life, but can’t always assume that everyone you meet is out to get you.
I hate that a simple plea for help is treated with suspicion, but at the same time, people need to be cautious. There are a lot of bad people out there and you just never know what someone’s objective is. I’m sure this episode was nothing more than it appeared, but then again, I can’t honestly tell you whether the guy got his engine running because I didn’t see it. And I didn’t hear any slow whir-whir-whirring that an engine makes when it’s run out of juice and being jumped.
But it was raining. And Dude’s car engine is noisy, too. So, I just might have missed it. And maybe the guy’s battery wasn’t stone cold, but just didn’t have enough juice to get the car started and needed that little nudge to do so.
But what if the guy didn’t really need any help at all but targeted Dude because he was young, vulnerable and alone in a semi-deserted parking lot?
It was a strange situation to be in and an even stranger situation to try and teach Dude. On one hand, I don’t want him to be afraid of people, but on the other hand, he definitely needs to be wary, and on guard with people, at the same time.
When Kevin heard the story, he told Dude that if something like that ever happened to him while he was out alone to go with his instinct. If he was uncomfortable with the situation, just tell the guy no and leave. And though that’s sound advice and I CERTAINLY don’t want Dude to be in a dangerous situation, the fact that we HAVE to tell him that makes my heart hurt.
It’s like the whole picking up a stranger thing that Kevin and I went through the other day.
We want to help people out. But there is so much evil in the world that you sometimes have to forgo that urge to be a good Christian, a decent human being, and simply go into survival mode.
It’s sad, isn’t it?