Bystander To Advocate (Part 2): Life Intervention

That Time I Didn’t Intervene

A few years ago, I was walking through a large mall and noticed a girl about 12 or 13 years old wearing a short miniskirt and high heels. It wasn’t just her outfit that took my attention. It was her strut. 

She also had a younger girl with her, maybe 8 or 9. We saw them several times as we shopped, and each time my stomach sank as I thought they could easily be targeted by someone. But I passed it off, thinking mall security would take notice and do something. Surely they would.

In that situation, what would you do? I remember pulling out of the parking lot and looking through the back window to find a glimpse of her… a glimpse of reassurance she’d be alright. That reassurance was never found, and to this day I regret not calling about that precious preteen girl.

I passed it off, thinking mall security would take notice and do something. Surely they would.

That Time I Did Intervene

My family of 6 was enjoying ice cream at McDonald’s when we noticed a girl about 6 years old in the PlayPlace. Her father kept trying to get her to leave. She wanted to play a little longer, and to this man that clearly meant defiance. He grabbed her forcefully by the hand and took her to the family car. Her cry turned everyone’s head. Her mom and little brother stayed and kept eating like it was business as usual. Through the booth window, we watched him shove his little girl into the back seat and seconds later “spank” her.

Let’s be clear. This was not discipline. This was a reaction disproportionate to behavior – the unfiltered rage of a father taken out on his little girl. It was when his hand reached above and behind his own head to hit her a 2nd and 3rd time that I knew I couldn’t stay silent. My heart would not let me.

In that situation, what would you do? I waited for the father to go to the restroom and I approached his wife, scared with a forced half-smile. I told her, “my whole family noticed how your husband reacted just then, and we all agreed, most people would think of it as abusive. It was not right.” She apologized for him, trying her best to convince me this was a rare occasion, but it did not work.

I should have also called the police with their license plate. But “I should have” thinking will get me nowhere. So instead, I will resolve to alert law enforcement, the next time I see anything like it.

The New Year brings with it new opportunities. God may place you on just the right path at that pivotal moment. Hard decisions await our move in the brief glimpses of injustice. So there is no better time to ask yourself than now…


What would you do?

Will you choose to be a bystander?

Or will you move into the role of an advocate?