Today I was walking through the mall on my way to get a haircut when I ran across a small boy standing in the middle of the walkway looking confused and crying. Twenty years ago... hell, even ten years ago... anybody with half a heart would jump in and offer to help the kid. Sadly, we live in modern times when such an act of kindness could so easily get you into trouble.
I knelt in front of the little guy, being careful that my hands were out to my sides and in plain view, then told him my name and asked him: "Are you okay? Are you lost?" In-between sobs, I found out he was indeed lost. "Are you here with your mommy or daddy?" No, he was here with his grandma.
So now what? If I were to take his hand and try to lead him to somebody who could help, it could give somebody the very wrong impression that I was some kind of child molester kidnapping the kid. Can't have that. So what I ultimately did was tell him that I would stay there with him and see if we could get somebody to find his grandmother. Eventually I managed to flag down a girl in a nearby store and ask her to call security. But before they could arrive, grandma came running and everything was okay.
But not really.
The entire drive home, I got to thinking about how horrible our world has become. Even the best of intentions can end up having dire consequences... try to help somebody who has been fatally shot, then get slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit... try to help a lost little boy, then get thrown in prison for attempted child abduction. What the hell? Is the world we are making for ourselves really the one we want?
In the end, I try not to blame society as a whole. Instead I blame f#@%ing child molesters and f#@%ing child abductors for forcing society to have to be so suspicious of anybody who would try to help a lost child. f#@% you all.