The day the world changed.

I read a really powerful post and my reply got really long. I realized that I just wrote a blog of my own in that replay. It was about the day the world changed for me.

In 2nd grade, mom gave me some money to take my little sister to the bakery and get doughnuts. A few other neighborhood children went along. I led a gaggle of kids, aged 4 – 7, to the bakery so we could have a doughnut. It was a two-mile walk and I was the oldest in the group. Back in 1977, this was not considered strange. It was also a small town and the odds of running into people you knew were very high.

By 5th, or maybe 6th, grade it started to change. I rode my bike over to a friend’s house. She lived over a mile away. A guy in a car was driving really slow. It was very odd and caught my attention. We never had any of these ‘stranger danger’ warnings or anything like that back then. But it really put me on guard. He followed me a short distance and took some shortcuts through a couple wooded lots where a car couldn’t go and lost him. I got my friend’s house and told her about it.

We got on our bikes and headed to the drug store for some snacks and then head to the beach. Oddly enough, this big fancy drug store was in the building that used to be the bakery. The bakery closed and I think the new store was a Ben Franklin. Here, we ran into the same guy. He was wearing loose shorts that were too short and clearly no underwear. We could see the head of his wiener (to use the term of that era) hanging out of his shorts.

I don’t remember what all he tried to say to us, but I know my friend and I were being very uncooperative. He asked for directions to the beach. This was a small town and the beach was very obvious and was probably the most distinctive feature of our town. This told us that he was probably not a local person. We told him were it was and raced our bikes back to my friend’s house and totally skipped the beach.

We played at her house for a while and then I went home, riding my bike as fast as I could, keeping a lookout for that car. I had been a little freaked out when the creep had followed me earlier and then turned up at the store. The next day at school, my friend told me that she had told her mom about it. Her mom had heard on the news that night that the guy had been arrested for bothering girls at the beach. Girls as in late grade-school to middle school age rather than girls as in females in general.

This was the day that my worldview changed and the world went from a basically safe place (meaning that sometimes people were mean and you were not always happy but you were ‘safe) to a dangerous place where you didn’t trust strangers and you paid a lot more attention to the people who you knew but you didn’t like.

It was about the same time that the After School Specials t.v. show started to air and talk about stories of abuse, neglect, and other stuff that people normally didn’t talk about.

I now think about how much the world seems to have changed. Once, a child of 7 could lead other children, who were practically toddlers still, on a 2 mile walk back then and now parents can’t even let kids play outside without parental supervision.  I hear about all the bad things happening to kids these days and have to wonder, was it really safer back then, or did we just never hear about it so we thought it was safer?  I suspect it was never really as ‘safe’ as we thought it was.

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