I used to love volunteering to help children and children’s programs. Growing up, these programs helped me so much with school and life, and I wanted to give back and pass along the good deed. Whether it be for a church, school, or whatever else, I wanted to help out. I just liked helping kids. That all changed the day someone accused me of being a pervert and a child molester.
At the time, I was working at a small chain department store. This little boy, about 6, came up to the customer service desk at the front because he had been separated from his mom. Smart kid. So I picked the kid up, sat him on the desk, and gave him a piece of candy to chew on while we waited for his mom. I made an announcement over the intercom and 5 minutes later, here comes his mom almost running up to customer service, with a very concerned look on her face. She pulls the kid off the counter and before I can say a word, she’s making him spit out his candy, and looking him over to make sure he was okay. She looked back at me and loudly asked, “What did you do to my son? What did you give him?” Some people started staring in our direction, and I started to get nervous. I tried to explain the situation, but she wasn’t having it. She was convinced I had done something with her son, like I was trying to take him. The more of a scene this woman made, the more people were staring. After about three minutes of this, the woman just leaves. She grabs her son by the wrist and just leaves. I didn’t know what to do. I stood there, embarrassed and upset and confused about the whole situation. I couldn’t wrap my head around how something so innocuous could have led to such a huge scene. Living in a small town, word got around quickly. I started getting funny looks at work from customers. Parents stopped bringing their children to the after-school arts class I was co-tutoring. Some of the parents at church stopped bringing their kids because I was there. These people had known me for years, and just because of a rumor some crazy lady was spouting, my name was being dragged through the mud. In the months that followed, I was kicked out of the tutoring program, I stopped going to church, and I was moved from my comfortable customer service desk job to organizing the stock room during my shifts. I ended up moving away that summer for college, and in the years that I was gone, the rumors only got worse. This was a time before I had joined any social media (MySpace was big at the time), so I didn’t have much way to keep in touch with any of my friends from home aside from a few phone calls every month. The news was slow, but the consensus remained the same: more than a few people believed I had been arrested on child molestation charges, despite the fact that there were no arrest records, my name never appeared on any court documents, and anyone that really knew me knew I was away at college.
All of that has been about 10 or 11 years ago now, and it’s mostly passed from people’s minds now. Every now and again one of my friend will bring it up, but I do everything I can to avoid thinking about it. I truly believe that one incident changed my entire life.
EDIT: Gold? Thanks, kind stranger. I accept with utmost gratitude. 🙂