Last fall, my sister-in-law was hanging out at our house, and we were making spaghetti for supper. I sliced my finger on the lid of a can of tomatoes, and, because the cut was so deep and I already had someone to watch the kids, decided to head off to Emerge.
On my way, I drove over a little bridge by a shopping plaza where a young woman was trying to wrestle herself out of the grip of a man.
They were on the other side of the road, but I rolled down my window and yelled, to let them know I saw them and also to get the attention of anyone else who could help. "HEY!" I bellowed with all the volume I possess, "HEY! NO!" (And as a mama with practice yelling across an entire playground, I like to think I've got considerable volume.)
I wrenched my wheel and zoomed into the parking lot and grabbed my phone and ran to the bridge.
When I got there, the man told me the woman had just failed her driving test and was upset and he was trying to keep her safe.
Something about it all felt wrong.
Another woman pulled over and was calling the police.
The man kept his arm on the young woman and tried to walk away.
I wanted to keep them there until the police came, but obviously couldn't prevent them from going, so I tried to talk to the young woman.
"Can you tell me what happened?" I asked, and when the man spoke up I looked right in her eyes and said, "miss, I want to hear your story from you. I'm Janelle."
'I'm Paris,' she told me, her expression carefully blank, 'I'm fine. I'm sorry. I'm fine.'
The man kept his grip on her the whole time. They walked away and got into the backseat of a jeep. I wrote down their license plate, and drove off.
I couldn't fight the urge to do something. My bleeding finger was way less important than this girl, and you will probably dismiss me as a religious nut but I felt like God had sent me out for a drive at just that moment for precisely this reason.
I saw 2 police cars parked in a lot at the next intersection. I pulled in and told them what happened and gave them the license number.
As I finally headed off to the hospital I was overwhelmed with a feeling that my guts were right, and Paris wasn't upset about her driving test but that she was trying to escape being trafficked.
I wish I had been able to do more.
I wish I had thought about trying to get her away from the man so we could talk privately.
I wish I had some way of following up, making sure the police checked it out.
I am not interested in creating fear where none exists, but I'm sharing my story because I read this article today and it reminded me so much of my short interaction with Paris on that bridge.
Take a moment to read it, and keep your eyes open for people who might need help.
And please, pray for Paris.