We left the Bingo Night fundraiser and headed home. Just me and the kids – Daddy had left the fundraiser to work at a different fundraiser. Busy night. Anyway, as we got on the highway, I noticed that we had two bars left on the gas gauge. Ok, might ought to get gas tomorrow some time, I thought.
Right after I passed the last main-part-of-town exit, I was down to one bar. Shoot, I thought. *sigh* Ok, I better take the next exit and drive back to the nearest gas station. It’s not that we live way outside of town. It’s just that I knew come the next morning, I’d be in a hurry and not have time to stop. Maybe I wouldn’t even notice or remember I needed gas.
I pulled up to a pump and Jane called out, “Hey, look! It’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.” I looked where she was pointing and saw a box abandoned next to the next pump over. I was dismayed.
With all the disappointment I could muster, I responded, “A Looney Tunes Bunny? A Looney Tunes Bunny?! That’s not just some Looney Tunes Bunny! That’s Bugs Bunny himself!”
“Well, ok, whatever. He’s a Looney Tunes Bunny.”
Her grandfather is not dead but if he was, he would have just rolled over in his grave. In fact, when he reads this, he might just drop dead and then roll over in his grave. Is Bugs that far out of popular culture?
Before I could take a picture, which had been my plan, Hal had fallen in love with a stuffed pug and the other two were snatching stuff up as well. I looked around and tried to decide what to do. The box wasn’t on its side, like it had fallen out of a truck. It was pushed up against the side of the pump like it had been left there deliberately. The box was open and Bugs was poking his head up out of the top. My initial reaction was that someone, for some reason, had left them there for the taking. And we needed stuffed animals for our VBS preschool program. So we emptied the box.
Hal even found Bugs’s missing ear in the box and reinserted it into his head.
As we drove away, I suddenly felt hollow. Surely those stuffed animals belonged to some little girl. What if her parents had threatened leaving them at the gas station if she didn’t stop doing whatever mischief she was doing. What if she was crying over her lost toys right now? What if her parents were mean and hateful?
Or maybe they had fallen out of a truck and some other kind soul had gathered them up and poked Bugs out of the top of the box to catch the owners’ attention if they returned. Maybe we were foiling someone else’s attempt at kindness. Maybe we were breaking some child’s heart. Some child whose heart would swell with hope when she saw the box and then be crushed with overwhelming sadness when she found it empty.
Or maybe they wouldn’t notice the box was missing until they were too far away. And they’d always just wonder whatever happened to that box of stuffed animals. Whether we were contributing to the child not being reunited with the toys or not, whether they ever would have come back or not, I sensed that there was or soon would be a very unhappy child.
After getting a censorious look from my husband when he got home, I settled on a course of action. I called the gas station to leave my phone number in case someone came looking for the animals. It took a bit of work to get the attendant to understand what I was trying to do. It seems unlikely anyone would come back. I mean, they first have to notice the box is missing and then they have to retrace all their steps, not knowing when it fell out. But still.
Now the gas station attendant thinks I’m crazy and has my first name and phone number. Odds are, he won’t pass the note on to whomever has the shift after him. Odds are, I’ll always feel a little sad and guilty about the little girl and her cute stuffed animals. Even if some other kids will love on them at VBS. And Hal will cherish the pug. And the little girl we are giving the rainbow horse to will love it. And we’ll make sure they all get loving homes. Even if. Guilty and sad and worried, I’ll be.