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Candy Counter Culture

We were on our annual Christmas trek to Chicago. Each year we brought our family to spend time with Grandpa and Grandma and visit the museums. This year we decided to finish our Christmas shopping at suburban Woodfield Mall. In the midst of all the fun and excitement, one of us noticed that little three-and-a-half-year-old Matthew was gone. Terror immediately struck our hearts. We had heard the horror stories: little children kidnapped in malls, rushed to a restroom, donned in different clothes and altered hairstyle, and then swiftly smuggled out, never to be seen again.

We split up, each taking an assigned location. Mine was the parking lot. I’ll never forget that night—kicking through the newly fallen snow, calling out his name at the top of my lungs. I felt like an abject fool, yet my concern for his safety outweighed all other feelings. Unsuccessful, I trudged back to our meeting point. My wife, Martie, had not found him, nor had my mother. And then my dad appeared, holding little Matthew by the hand.

Our hearts leapt for joy. Interestingly enough, Matthew was untraumatized. He hadn’t been crying. To him, there had been no problem. I asked my father where he had found him. “The candy counter,” he replied. “You should have seen him. His eyes came just about as high as the candy. He held his little hands behind his back and moved his head back and forth, surveying all the lucious options.” Matthew didn’t look lost. He didn’t know he was lost. He was oblivious to the phenomenal danger he was in. This is a candy-counter culture, where people who don’t look lost and don’t know they’re lost live.

Joseph M. Stowell, Moody Monthly, December, 1989, p. 4