On December 7, 2017, Megan Orr Burnside shared a heartbreaking story that showed just how difficult being a parent can be. The post recounted a moment in her life when she’d called the authorities about something that she had seen at a gas station. She had been worried about a child’s safety – but all too soon she realized that she should have reacted totally differently. What’s more, the experience permanently changed the way that she looked at other people.
Megan took to Facebook to tell the story, and her post soon went viral. So far, it has received over 40,000 reactions. The tale begins at a gas station in Tennessee. Megan was with her husband and saw a woman struggling with her child – a 10-year-old boy. The child was obviously distressed but, describing the scene, Megan noted that the mother seemed frustrated and angry.
The woman was apparently attempting to get her child into the car and, following a tussle with the boy, was finally able to do so. This was where the scene got really ugly, though. Megan said that she saw the two fighting inside the vehicle. Indeed, it seemed like the mother was hitting the child.
As rewarding as being a parent can be, it’s never easy – particularly when dealing with a full-blown tantrum. However, this wasn’t a simple scolding and Megan was extremely concerned by the altercation.
Hence, she did what she thought was the right thing to do: she called the police. She believed that she’d witnessed an instance of child abuse, she said, and the authorities were therefore her best bet. Indeed, the cops soon showed up and went to talk with the mom and child. Meanwhile, Megan and her husband put the scene behind them, thinking that they’d defused a dangerous situation.
What she learned next, though, made her realize that she’d made a terrible mistake. Even years later, Megan’s guilt weighs heavily on her heart – and the outcome of the encounter changed her perspective on parenting and on life, she said. She would take to Facebook to admit to her mistake and tell the whole story.
Not long after she and her husband had driven away from the gas station, the police apparently got in touch. They told her that the child had autism, she said. He could sometimes become violent, and the mother was having a tough time looking after him. She’d reportedly even gone to the police in the past to get assistance with him.
Looking back, Megan realized that she had simply sat there and watched as the scene unfolded, instead of trying to help the mother to get a grip on the situation. Indeed, Megan realized that she’d done the wrong thing. It was a time when a parent needed some help, and Megan had instead called the authorities. It would be an important lesson for her.
However, an event several years later would bring the memories of that incident in Tennessee back to the surface. This time, Megan didn’t simply call the cops, but she instead tried to help the parent in question. Indeed, she had changed the way that she looked at life.
In a thrift store, Megan saw a mom with her two children standing in line, she said. The children were apparently being a handful – one causing a commotion, and the other demanding items from the shop. And Megan said she could tell that the mom was getting angry by the way that she treated the children.
Though everyone could see what was happening, nobody apparently offered to help. Megan thought back to her encounter at the gas station, she said – and she walked over to the group to offer her help.
Megan said she simply placed her hand on one of the boy’s feet, and he was comforted immediately. The mom apparently apologized profusely to Megan. She worked the night shift, which made it difficult for her to look after two children during the day, Megan recalled her saying.
Megan knew what it felt like to be overwhelmed. “I told her she was a good mom,” Megan wrote. “I told her everything was going to be OK.” And then something apparently happened which made the story even more moving.
The woman wept in the store, overcome by everything that she was struggling with – and presumably touched by Megan’s intervention. Megan knew that in the past her first reaction would have been to call the cops in case anything happened. She realized, though, that all the mother needed was a little help.
Megan was also affected by a similar issue which came closer to home. Someone had called the Department of Children and Family Services on one of Megan’s friends, who was also a mom. When they arrived, Megan’s friend was laid up in bed suffering from an infection.
Megan said she was often over at her friend’s house and had seen just how well she raised her children. Indeed, Megan said that her friend was the kind of mom that she wanted to be like. The woman treated her children with patience and love and took care to listen to them.
And it was disappointing to Megan that someone had reported her friend to the authorities rather than trying to help her. Indeed, while the woman’s children might have been running about or making do for themselves, Megan had no doubt that the individual who had made the report hadn’t asked if they could help.
In the end, all Megan wanted was for people to avoid judging each other and to ask themselves if there was anything that they could do to help people. She noted that she had been all too guilty of judging people in the past – but she was making an effort to change.
Megan’s story also draws attention to autism and how difficult it can be to care for an autistic child. It’s easy to observe an alarming situation, but an offer of help can make all the difference.
We can only hope that in time, people will be less quick to judge and more willing to help others. It’s never easy being a parent, but an offer of help can take some of the strain off – making childcare a pleasure rather than a burden.