A teenaged black boy flagged me down in the middle of the road on the outskirts of a rough neighborhood. I was leaving a park not far away from the university, and I was on my way back to work. He was in the middle of the road, and he didn't give me much choice but to stop. It was a narrow road with a ditch on my side.
I cracked my window a little bit to see what he needed, and he told me his car was broken down and he was trying to get to work. I didn't see any car. He asked me if I could give him a lift to a place that was much further than where I was actually going...but that notwithstanding...I really felt uneasy about letting him in my car.
He asked to use my phone, and I let him. He called someone, then asked me if I would speak to the man he called. I was a little uncomfortable, but I took the phone. The man introduced himself as the boy's father, and asked if I would give the boy a ride to work. I told him that I was sorry, but I really couldn't do that. I handed the phone back to the boy, they spoke a few more minutes, and he handed me back my phone. I told him I hoped he understood why I couldn't give him a ride, and he said he did. He then asked me for some money to buy a drink. (It really was a hot day, last summer.) I gave him a couple of bucks and went on back to work.
I was feeling guilty because I'd left him there. What if he was just a nice young man trying to get to work, willing to start out walking in the hot summer sun to get there? I consoled myself by thinking that really, in this day and age, I couldn't just give a complete stranger a ride somewhere, and that I really had more than just myself to think about.
That next morning, I got a phone call from the boys father. The boy hadn't been seen since he started out walking, and his few minutes with me were the last contact his family had had with him. I got one more phone call from the dad, and then one from his grandmother later that evening.
I never did find out what happened to the boy. I was just thinking about him this morning.