The tale I'm going to tell tonight is bizarre and unsettling in the extreme. Early last week, in a nice neighborhood just a mile or so from here, a ten year-old girl, whom I'll call Red, was riding her bike to a friends' house. She and the friend had both auditioned to sing in the school talent show. Since they had both, big surprise to anyone who knows a tweenie girl, sung Taylor Swift's "Our Song" for the audition, the committee decided to have them sing it together. (This is not the bizarre part, though I will admit the thought of said performance is a bit unsettling.) Red was going to the friend's house for practice.
A golden colored sedan was cruising around the neighborhood at the same time--later it would be discovered that the car was stolen and being driven by a 25 year-old homeless man--likely looking for a hapless victim. Seeing Red on her bike, he RAN HER DOWN. Red is a bit of a spitfire and had the presence of mind to jump up and begin running away, despite having just been hit by a car. Before she got far, Psycho was out of the car and dragging her by the hair into the passenger side. Red screamed. And screamed. And the neighbors came.
Before anyone had time to react, Red was pulled into the car and Psycho took off. At this point, three things happened simultaneously: the mother of Red's friend called Red's mother, a second neighbor called 911, and a third neighbor jumped in her car and took off after Psycho.
Red's mother was at the scene just as the police pulled up, feeling her heart ripped out at the sight of a single shoe left behind and Red's bike twisted and wrecked on the side of the road. While a plan was formed and an APB with the car's description was sent to every police officer in the city and the surrounding communities, the chasing neighbor returned. She reported the direction the car had gone, but admitted that Psycho had just been going too fast and she couldn't keep up. She also had forgotten her cell phone and the only way she could relay what she had learned of the route Psycho and Red had taken was to come back.
At some point, Psycho pulled over and had Red alone for a few minutes. That is where it gets a little bit murky, but it seems that Red wasn't going down without a fight and Psycho was concerned about being caught so he took off again. He hadn't gone more than few miles when he ran straight into a strip of tire rippers laid down by the officers on duty in the nearest community in the direction he was headed.
The sedan wrecked in a ditch; Red was rushed to the hospital and treated for a broken arm and given a thorough exam while the prosecutor paced outside, adding up the charges that would be laid at Psycho's feet. Meanwhile, Psycho was treated for some minor injuries at the local jail where Red's mother, quite honestly, hope he rots for eternity. And Red's father? Well, at one point he set out in his truck with a loaded shotgun to bring Red home, so Red's mother is grateful that she doesn't have a husband in jail on top of all of this.
Many of these details were in the newspaper. But not all of them. I'm privy to this incredible story because I visit teach Red's mother, and I've tutored Red on several occasions. (It was Red's mother who made the Jedi Master's adorable black and white starry fondant cake for his birthday.) This kind of thing never happens to people you know. Except when it does.
As the Relief Society President and I made our way over to Red's house the morning after this had all happened, I said to her, "I bet the handbook doesn't have any guidelines for THIS situation." I smiled slightly, trying to somehow help the mood of gloom we carried with us.
Very gravely, she replied, "You know, most of what the sisters go through has no easy answer. I never know what to do, really."
"When in doubt bake?" I smiled again.
She smiled this time too, and said that she had been talking about that very thing with her husband two nights previously because she often felt helpless against an onslaught of problems and that the best she could usually was throw a casserole at every difficulty. She perhaps expected her husband, not a member, to agree. Instead, he said, "But at least they know that you are thinking about them, that you care about them, and you are there if they need anything."
I took my turn throwing a casserole at this terrible situation--chicken enchiladas (which seemed a little chintzy so I also threw a big bag of greasy Frito's and a quart of strawberry vanilla ice cream)--as well as volunteering to do some tutoring for Red while she gets caught up in classes she was already struggling in. I spent some time talking with Red's mom when I took the food: we hugged and cried and talked with relief about how much worse it could have been and expressed gratitude for a community that works together. Today at church our Relief Society lesson was about service and the teacher talked about trying to get creative with our own talents and find ways to serve that only we could do. I knew I hadn't done much, but the lesson made me feel good about the service I'd rendered Red's family this week.
Then I spoke to Red's mom who told me she had dishes for me in the car. "How did you like it?" I said, with no real trepidation. I don't think I've ever taken anything that people weren't really complimentary about and my own family gobbled up the enchiladas, no problem. She replied, "Um, they were really spicy; the kids wouldn't really eat them. They gave me a stomach ache because I finally ate three of them when I could get enough sour cream on them." I smiled. I apologized. I felt helpless.
So it is okay to throw a casserole at a problem. Just not THAT casserole. And maybe not THAT problem.