Mindfulness has served me well in all sorts of situations—as my son retold my recent encounter to his friend, “My mom found a baby at the mall yesterday.”
Let me explain. Gratefully headed toward the mall exit after a few long hours shopping with my daughter and mother, we came across a little lost girl. Sobbing and calling out quietly for her mother, she appeared terrified of the male security guard attempting to extract identifying information. Cowering, sobbing, and stomping her feet in a panic, we gently corralled her to prevent her from running off, all waiting eagerly for her mom to return.
It was clear she needed to de-escalate her panic before the security guard could make any headway with communication. As she shallowly gulped air between sobs, I coached her to calm her breath, which she was able to do periodically between crying jags. Minutes passed. Gradually she allowed me to stand next to her and speak reassuringly, soon reaching up to tentatively grab my hand with her little one. Before long, she held out her arms for a hug. Rocking her and rubbing her back, the weight of her little body slowly relaxed against me as her head rested on my shoulder. More at ease, she was able to share her name and age. We waited.
After twenty minutes and no adult to claim her, the security guard reluctantly put a call in to the local police. I envisioned the (likely) male officer coming to whisk her off, terrifying her further. (I even had a fleeting thought of bringing her home with me, returning from an afternoon shopping trip with much more than I had bargained for, to the imagined shock of my husband and son.)
I used mindfulness to calm that precious four-year-old, home in on what she desperately needed in that moment, and to calm myself while witnessing her distress. My ability to remain steady allowed her to relax and share important identifying information while providing her a temporarily safe place to lay her head.
Before the police arrived, thankfully, her mother, grandmother, and siblings appeared. She ran to her mom, who heartbreakingly provided a lukewarm greeting—a lackluster reunion, to say the least. The little girl seemed to receive some much-needed comfort from her sister, who appeared only a few years older. Walking away with her family, that sweet baby took a little piece of my heart with her. I hope she learned the power of calming herself with her breath. I hope a seed of mindfulness was planted.
As for my son, I let him know she was, in fact, four, not a baby, and when he asked if I would have made him share his bedroom, assured him that bringing her home was only a passing thought. I smiled, pulled him in for a bear hug, and breathed.