4-year-old Girl Sits Next to a Man on a Bus and Then…

Hi Readers — Had to share this response to the posts below this one, about Virgin Air making a man move because he was seated next to two unaccompanied minors.  – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This just seems outrageous to me.  I would like to share a story from my childhood which has left a lasting impression on not only myself, but my mother as well.
When I was about 4 my very young single mother was travelling across the country via a Greyhound bus with my 4 year old self and my 1 year old sister.  Mum was given some bad information at the start of the journey and found halfway through the trip that she would have to buy and extra ticket for my toddler ticket and would run out of funds before we would reach our destination.
At some point when we had to change buses the bus driver told my mother that each of the children would have to sit in their own seat.  As the bus only had paired seats she had to put either my sister or myself in a seat next to a stranger.  As I was the oldest and presumably the more responsible, she seated me a few rows ahead of her in an available seat next to a US military member travelling in uniform.  I’m sure I talked the poor guy’s ear off most of the trip but apparently he liked me because he passed me a $100 bill before disembarking the bus and told me to give the money to my mom.
Due to this man’s generosity we were able to make it to our destination and I know I enjoyed the independence and responsibility of sitting with a stranger. This just goes to show you that not every “stranger” is dangerous, and sometimes they can save us when we most need a hand up in the world. – Brandi

Sure you can sit by me, little girl!

32 Responses

  1. OMG, she took money from a stranger! 😮 Oh, wait, that’s candy. Never mind; I guess their money’s okay. ;-)))

  2. We can’t experience the kindness of strangers unless we are open to it. While there are some bad people out there, most people are good and most bad people can only be bad in certain circumstances. What a wonderful story exemplifying just that.

    I bet that the serviceman had a nice respite from his military world by opening himself up to this young girl, just as she enjoyed his company. Oh, look – everyone wins!

  3. “Yeah, but that was a long time ago, times have changed, etc. etc…”

  4. I’m pretty sure he was pumping her for information so he could track her down later. She doesn’t realize how lucky she was. What a close call. (yes, that was sarcasm)

  5. I don’t know what I like best about this. The Free Range aspect, the generosity of the stranger, the honorability of the service member… so much to choose from.

  6. I hope Trespassers W is being sarcastic, because TIMES haven’t changed. What has changed is the reporting of bad news. Before mass media news, if a kid was kidnapped in some town the only people who heard about it were the people in that general area. Now everyone around the country hears about every very rare kidnapping, making it seem like there are more. And of course with molestation, one didn’t SPEAK about that , so who KNOWS how many pervs there were back then.

  7. I think that TrespassersW put that in quotes because it was sarcasm. In other words, he/she is suggesting that’s what nay-sayers would have to say about the matter.

  8. I would note that in contrast to the airline matter, this child was with her mother. They had the benefit of both the mother’s and child’s instinct in determining where the child would be safest (assuming there was any choice in the matter). Under normal circumstances, parents don’t randomly sit their child with just anyone, without any sort of discreet screening, for long periods of time.

  9. Sometimes kids bring out the *best* in people.

  10. @Mom: what Jules wrote.🙂

  11. SKL…thanks for the wet blanket.

  12. Aww…I got tears in my eyes just reading that. What a wonderful man to do that. And back then $100 was more than $100 now. Like K said, “We can’t experience the kindness of strangers unless we are open to it.”

  13. SKL – Actually mom put her child in what appears to be the closest available seat because most people realize that it is not okay to ask people to move based on your own prejudices and you have to live with what you have. Turns out that the empty seat was next to a very nice guy. The nice guy part is not unusual. One willing to help out a young family probably isn’t either if given the chance.

  14. I flew BY MYSELF across country when I was four-almost-five, and can still see the faces of the poor, unsuspecting men I sat next to (the guy on the way out had a black mustache and an accent, the one on the way back was a blondie named Alan). Actually, I think the airlines should probably apologize to THEM for the disruption to their otherwise peaceful flights by an overly-chatty pre-K little girl! I remember Mustache Man teaching me about airplanes landing and why our ears are affected by the change in cabin pressure, and Blonde Alan came straight up to my parents in the airport on our return and said ‘Nice to meet you….I’ve heard so much about you!’ My family still thinks this is funny to tease me about, thirty years later.

    Now, as a mom of two little ones myself and living overseas, I’ve had to travel many times on 9+ hours flights on my own with my kids starting from the age of 2-months…..and I could not have survived any of those journeys without help from ‘strangers’ on the airplanes, most of them men, interestingly enough. In general, people are much kinder and more helpful than we give them credit for, and we all lose out on some wonderful experiences if we don’t give others the opportunity to be their wonderful selves.

    Life just is NOT so scary that we need to assume anyone we don’t know is a malicious demon waiting to attack at any given moment!

  15. My 5, 7, and 9 year old boys now make regular international, overnight flights as unaccompanied minors (well, the 5 year old now for the first time). On the last flight, my 7 year old wasn’t feeling well. From what I heard afterwards, they put him into business class, next to some Gentleman who then (over night) heard our family story, about the visit to Grandma, and probably lots of things that didn’t mean anything. Apparently, he was very nice and amused (according to the flight attendants). Proof that not all airlines are idiotic.

  16. What a beautiful story and a reminder that we all are required to rely on the kindness of strangers at some point.

  17. Actually, learning to recognize the safe strangers from the suspicious ones, the right vibe, the proper behavior of adults, is one of the most important skills you’ll ever give your kids. I had a lot of freedom as a young child, at a lot of sleepovers, and traveled alone from the age of 13. The great majority of adults, men and women, were kind and helpful, caring. The few bad ones? I met some but was never in danger because I knew how to find the safe adults to watch over me. The shy child afraid to talk to strangers, the kid hiding in a corner, that’s the kid the predators will likely go after. Not the outgoing child who makes friends with strangers, children and adults alike. Especially if that child has learned to recognize weird, inappropriate behavior in adults and is not shy about saying “bye, my friends are looking for me”.

  18. I often travel by train alone, and unless the train is sold out, the seat next to me is usually empty. For a little while, anyway. There’s always some little kid or other who comes by, notices that I don’t look like other Moms, and remarks upon it. (My favorite opening line is “Does your Mommy let you do that to your hair?”) They are gobsmacked when I tell them that I AM the Mommy, and I typically end up with a travel companion after that.

    (I am also fond of the little Amish kids. I speak German, and am well familiar with Plattdeutsch. It’s hilarious to me when the little ones run back to their Moms hollering “That English lady knows how to talk with us!”)

    Train travelers are…different. Everyone seems to look out for everyone else, so when kiddo’s Mom comes by, it’s not to yell at me about potentially kidnapping her precious, it’s to make sure kiddo isn’t being a pest, and to thank me for “putting up with” the child. There are often whole families traveling together, and sometimes that means one of the kids can’t sit with a parent. We have a ball! I show them pictures of my own kids and my pets, they tell me about their trip to Grammy’s, and the fuss I’ve experienced with other modes of transport just isn’t there. I’ve yet to experience on the train the same mistrustful vibe I’ve experienced elsewhere. I like to think that train travelers are Free Rangers!

  19. i love trains! Lenore Skenazy Author of the bookand blog, Free-Range Kids Host of Discovery/TLC International’s “World’s Worst Mom” (the title is ironic!). Here’s a 2-minutesample. Busy twittering atFreeRangeKids And while we’re at it, also author of the trivia book that puts the fun in short term memory loss:”Who’s The Blonde that Married What’s-His-Name?” 646 734 8426(cell)

    ________________________________

  20. I’m not sure if you saw this article in the Australian Magazine but give it a read.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/the-parent-trap/story-e6frg8h6-1226444004708 – enjoy

  21. When I lived in Brisbane(Queensland, Aust) our eldest only young. When she was four marginally over a decade ago, we would let her sit with men and women. She talked their ears off.

  22. What a lovely story, and what a generous man

  23. After reading most of the comments, the policy should be adults be aware of chatty and friendly children. I remember my daughter and I ended up being booked into seperate seats due to arriving late at the airport on a Virgin airline flight. My seat was at the front of the plane and my daughter ended up sitting in the middle of the plane between 2 men. The airline staff would not move anyone.(my daughter was 8 yrs old at the time) The men ended up helping her with her food and one even bought her a can of coke. When I did speak to the men they said it was one of the most entertaining trips they ever had, and knew everyting about our family.

  24. I think that this outcome is great BUT it is important to remember that there are very real dangers in the world. As a child I was a victim of sexual abuse: including from a neighbor whom were family friends. I was almost kidnapped in 6th grade, a disabled woman ran to my rescue. When I was around 5th or 6th grade, I rode a greyhound bus and had to sit next to gentleman who did not keep his hands to himself. He fled off the bus before the driver could stop him and avoided the police who were waiting on the bus to arrive. While I do believe in the free range philosophy I think it is important to speak with kids about what to do in certain situations. One would think that given what I have gone through I would be a “helicopter” parent however I am not. I allow my children a pretty broad range of freedom but I also educate them and empower them to feel comfortable and confident in their situations and what to do if they feel they are in a potentially uncomfortable situation.

  25. Nice. And glad to hear that she didn’t mention her mother all in a panic the whole time. But I would have to correct her from “not every stranger is dangerous”, to “MOST strangers aren’t dangerous”. 😉

  26. Beautiful story. Kudos to this man.

  27. A week or so ago I was making the three hour trip home from my moms house with my two month old girl. About halfway there she woke up and was very upset so we stopped at a rest stop. I took her up to the restroom and changed her diaper and let her nice around for a while. Then I discovered a problem. I needed to use the restroom but I had nowhere to put the baby. As I was walking back to the car an older woman and her husband were getting out of their car. The woman commented on how adorable my baby is and said that she hasn’t been able to hold a baby that small in a long time…so I asked her if she would mind holding my daughter while I went to the restroom. She was DELIGHTED! she even walked down to the drink machines and back to my car so she could hold the baby longer. So the only results of leaving my baby with a stranger was that I got a quick break and we made an old lady happy. Everyone I have told this story to has said I’m crazy to let the baby out of my sight for a second. Some even said they prefer to pee in the bushes on the side of the road rather than take the chance that “something might happen”.

  28. One of my favorite memories of France is on the subway, when we were seated a couple rows behind a very sour-faced older Frenchman. Amelia (my 4 year old daughter) went and sat by this man, and casually worked her arm up around his neck. He couldn’t help but smile. I felt so proud of her in that moment, for bringing love to this “stranger.”

  29. Maggie, above, when my son was less than 10 days old, I let the staff at a restaurant take him and walk him around. Yes, he was out of my sight for a good portion of my meal. But l knew to trust and enjoy the gift of a peaceful meal. That type of trust, and blissful meals with my husband, continued at numerous restaurants across the US – DC, San Francisco, Chicago. My son grew accustomed to other people, men and women, different colors, different body art, different languages, and a variety of international foods. So thankful both for me/us and for him to have the exposure and experiences. And never did I worry. These were restaurants that we frequented often and developed nice rapport with waitstaff and managers.

  30. […] has been interesting so far, but the first post I would really like to talk about is this one. The story actually starts in this post (linked inside the new one as well) about the Virgin-Air […]

  31. Not all strangers are bad but any of them can be. Maybe 1 in a million people would purposely cause you harm, but you neve know who that one is. It’s not just men, it’s not just strangers, molestation isn’t the only danger. We need to protect our kids in every way that we can while still allowing them to live. If there were minors on the plane then the airline staff had taken responsibility for their safety. Someone was being overprotective. I see nothing wrong with that. It’s too bad that the guy was inconvenienced by the change of seat but Its not that big of a deal.

    Soldiers rape women. Priests molest children. Kids sell drugs. People steal babies. Serial killers often seem like your average Joe. the world is a very dangerous place. Fortunately God is a just judge and in the end everyone will be judged and given eternal sentancing.

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