I Was a Hero for an Hour!

A story of a lost 3 year old boy…

On a 10km run eaier this week in the Luberon (Provence) I came across a stranded 3 year old boy. I passed him and remarked how young and small he looked. It was also 35C or 95F and I was concerned he may get heat exhaustion. I ran back to him and asked if he was ok. It was immediately clear he was lost and panicking. He said he lost his parents and wanted to go home.

The farmlands where I found the boy.

For some reason this was my first run in months without a mobile phone. Had I had the phone I would have called the emergency number in France which is 15 (like 911 in North America). Being in farmland, the roads were quiet and not a single car was around. But amazingly this little boy knew the way home. So I walked him home (about 2km) up and down rolling dirt roads off the main road.

When we got to his house he panicked even more as his parents’ cars were not around and the house doors were locked.

By now I’d been with him for about 20 minutes consoling him as best I can, we sang songs, I encouraged him to keep walking, or riding his bike, told him how impressed I was that he knew his way home at 3 years old, and that he was so strong to go that distance. I would have carried him but he had a bicycle with him that he refused to leave on the side of the road and was too exhausted to ride the whole way. He rode a bit as I jogged along side him. But at one point he simply couldn’t ride anymore. Every time I suggested we leave the bicycle by the side of the road he started screaming that he wanted me to carry it. Again, I was really impressed with his determination and perseverance to get home.

Luckily he lives in a little enclave of homes and I started banging on doors asking if anyone knew the boy. A lady eventually appeared and was in shock to see her neighbours’ son with me and wondered where the parents were. She called the parents and about 10 minutes later the dad arrived and the 3 year old boy calmed down but was still distraught. The father offered me some cold water and a ride back to my rental cottage. About five minutes later the mother arrived and she was in tears and was very angry with the situation but was extremely tender with with her son. Both parents thanked me and the father drove me back to my cottage rental as my family was getting concerned. I was gone 90 minutes when I had only planned on going for 50 minutes.

The boy’s family works in the fields and as the kids are out of school and day care they hang out with the parents in the fields. The father had to go check on some machinery in a barn and told his son to wait for him. But his son misunderstood him or either didn’t hear him and noticed his dad was not around… as he knew his way home from the fields he started walking/riding with his bike. The irony is that I found the boy about 300 meters from where the father was in a barn working on a some sort of farm machinery. The father had also started panicking wondering where his son went but thought he may have fallen into a hole or got stuck somewhere on the farm. So instead of going home he searched the farm. He never assumed his boy knew the way home.

I think we underestimate what 3 year olds know.

Well, I made friends with the family and they’ve invited us over to thank me. They were so happy that I happened to be running by their son. Odd that I hadn’t really planned on running in that direction… just something told me to turn down that road. I’m happy I did as I’m not sure what would have happened to the boy.

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