haunted by the kid in the van


On Friday morning, a disturbing headline captured my attention through twitter. Law enforcement was investigating a possible kidnapping in Cherokee. A concerned citizen reported having seen a child, whose hands were tied up, inside a white van banging on the back window. You can click that link for the KTIV story on it. There’s not much more to the story. Nobody has reported that the van has been found. No child has been reported missing from Cherokee county. 

So the kid in this van…Who was he or she? Why was he or she back there? Where were they headed? Where were they from? Why didn’t the car follow the van? How come we haven’t heard more? And so on.

I was talking with Steve about it. He asked, “What would you have done? You think you’d follow the van? What if they had a gun?”

I don’t know anything other than what’s been reported. I have no idea if the person who called it in had a chance to follow the vehicle. I really don’t know what I would have done. I think I’d have called, but maybe I’d have told myself my eyes were deceiving me and I wasn’t seeing clearly. I want to think I’d risk my own safety to save a child, but how do you know for sure until you’re in that situation? 

The odds of seeing a kidnapped kid in the back of a van are small. I know I see kids in danger in other ways every day, though. I want to help but I never know if my assumptions are accurate. I’m the kind of adult who stops and yells at kids on bikes who race into the street without looking first. I’m the kind of adult who calls a parent, a teacher or a counselor if a youth shows signs of cutting or self-harming behavior.

Other times I don’t turn things in. The 3 year old wandering down the street without a parent? Suspicions about a teenager drinking and partying a little too much? If I reported it every time I heard a youth talk about being bullied, I’d be on the phone a lot. (More on that last one later this week.) It’s just hard to know what’s real danger and what’s perceived danger. It’s easier not to pay attention.

There’s no resolution here, just the haunting realization that bad stuff happens to children every single day. This world is broken and the endings (when we see them) don’t always make sense.That kid is likely in more immediate danger than the kids I see every day but the fact that it could be one of the kids I know in that van freaks me out. Because of that, I keep praying for the kid in the van and the kids I see. It’s the only thing I know for sure to do.

About SaraBSutter

I serve as the pastor of United Presbyterian Church in Goldfield, Iowa. My husband Steve and I are excited to be in a friendly small town and look forward to the years ahead. In addition to nerdy church stuff, I love reading books, writing, good coffee, cats, and football.

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