The Waif on the Sidewalk

The pile of tumbleweed that stopped the waif.

The pile of tumbleweed that stopped the waif.

I’m linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the Five-Minute Friday crowd. This week’s prompt? Hands.

I laughed and knelt down on the garage floor to peer beneath the car. “Can you see him?” I asked my daughter Sarah.

“He’s right behind the front wheel of the car.”

“Rats!” We had spent the last five minutes herding a lizard and that rushed under my car when I’d opened the garage door. “You stay over there,” I said, “while I try to swish this belt underneath to make him go in the right direction.”

My ploy worked, and the lizard rushed outside and into the driveway. Summer days pay no respect to schedules and timelines, it seemed. Vacation had started and I knew if I didn’t get around to everything on my list today, I’d always have the weekend…or Monday.

After driving slowly into town to show Sarah how little gas I could use on one trip (I have a hybrid car), stopping at the bank and the post office, we finally turned down the street behind the only grocery store in town.

I glanced over and saw a toddler looking at me from behind a pile of tumbleweed on the sidewalk. I looked over my shoulder and saw a man staring at the child from across the street, and another man weeding next to the sidewalk on the other corner.

“Is that baby all alone?” I asked Sarah.

I backed up the car, rolled down my window and called to the child, “Where’s your mommy?” I rolled down the other window and asked the man across the street, “Is that your baby?”

He shook his head. I pulled the car into the parking lot and Sarah and I jumped out. I walked over to the baby about the same time that the man who had been weeding
arrived and asked me, “Is it your child?”

I shook my head. “I just saw a toddler standing there and it looked odd, so I came over to find out what was happening.”

He bent down and picked her up. “Maybe it belongs to that house over there. Let’s go check.”

I hovered nearby, trying to figure out if the child was a girl or a boy. The wind lifted the tangled, short, wispy hair, and the child wore only a t-shirt and pull-ups. Dirty ones, I noticed.

The stranger set the toddler down in front of the house and went up on the porch to knock on the door.

The waif sat on the concrete porch steps then quickly stood up. “Hot. Hot!”  I looked down and noticed chipped purple nail polish on one foot.

“What pretty toenails you have!” I exclaimed.

“Prrrty. Mama.” She pointed at her toes.

“What’s your name, darlin’?” I asked her.

“Darlin’. Hot. Prrrty, Mama,” she answered, pointing at her toes again.

Meanwhile, the homeowner had answered the door and the good Samaritan had confirmed that the baby did not belong at the house—and the lady had never seen her before.

“Do you happen to have a diaper or a pull-up, and some baby wipes?” I interrupted.

“I do!” she said. “I have an 18-month-old. Let me grab one while I call the police.”

By the time an officer arrived, I’d changed the toddler’s diaper (and noticed some scratches and bruises on her back). Three other cruisers pulled up and spread out across the neighborhood. The first officer shrugged and said he would take her down to the station since no one knew where she came from.

I buckled her into the front seat of his car and swallowed a lump in my throat when he drove away.

I crossed the street and asked the man standing on the corner if he’d seen anything.

“My kids came in about twenty minutes ago and said they saw a baby walking down the sidewalk from that tree down there.” He gestured to a lone tree at the end of a long stretch of deserted street with some kind of windowless building covering two-thirds of the block. A high fence and weeds covered the remaining space between the building and the entrance to the grocery store parking lot.

She has no shoes, I thought. It’s almost 90 degrees out here.

Sarah and I parked the car and shopped for groceries. “We should call the police and find out if they’ve found her mom,” Sarah said.

We couldn’t find the number, so we stopped by the station and went inside. An hour had passed since we’d first seen her. No one had found her parents.

After returning home and eating lunch, Sarah called the station.

Still no parents.

I worried. I fretted. Then I remembered. Divine appointments orchestrated by mighty hands. (click to tweet)

If the lizard hadn’t run under the car, if I hadn’t tried to go electric most of the way into town, we wouldn’t have ended up in the right place at the right time to help a seemingly abandoned toddler.

I still don’t know if the police have found her parents. I don’t know her story’s beginning or end. But I know I can pray—and that the hands that chased the lizard into the garage will surely keep protecting the waif from the sidewalk.

Have you had any divine appointments lately?

Update:  Saturday afternoon.  The police found the parents.  That’s the bad news.  The good news?  That sweet little toddler (she really was a precious little chatterbox–even if I couldn’t understand it!) is with Child Protective Services and she and her family will get the help that they need.

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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