One night, a taxi driver finds a child alone by the side of the road and takes her to the police, never imagining that his act of kindness would change his life.
David Gideon was eager to get home to his wife. It was cold and late and all he wanted was to sit on his comfy chair and eat his dinner watching something silly on TV.
Unfortunately, David’s night was far from over. As he drove along the dark road, he suddenly noticed something moving by the side of the road just ahead of him.
Then his headlights brought everything into focus: it was a little girl in blue jeans and a white sweater. She looked very young, maybe seven or eight. What could she be doing out here? David wondered.
David pulled over and got out of the car. He approached the child slowly, careful not to frighten her. “Excuse me, little girl,” he said. “Where are your parents? Were you in an accident?”
The girl jumped at the sound of David’s voice and her big eyes opened even wider. “No…” she said. “My parents…they left me. They said they’d come back…so I’ve been waiting.”
Parents are not those who give birth to us, but those who raise us.
“Well,” come along with me,” David said gently. “I’ll take you to the police station.”
On the drive to the police station, the child sat in the back seat as quiet as a mouse. David had never seen a child that still. She didn’t even look out of the car windows at the lights when they drove into town.
At the police station, she refused to speak and wouldn’t even tell them her name. “All I know is that she said her parents abandoned her by the side of the road,” David told the officers.
“I don’t know much about kids,” he admitted. “My wife and I couldn’t have any, but there’s something wrong with this child.”
When David got home that day, he told his wife Jenny about the little girl. “You must go back and see what happened to her, David,” she said. “Poor thing, she must be terrified.”
The next day, before he started work, David went to the police station and asked about the girl. “Well,” the officer said. “We solved the mystery. Her name is Rita Silver and she ran away from her foster home.”
“So the whole being abandoned story was a lie?” asked David, shocked.
“Not exactly,” the officer said. “Rita WAS abandoned by the side of a road near a gas station about five years ago. She’s just a very unlucky little girl.”
David told Jenny that Rita had run away from foster care and that she had been abandoned when she was five years old. “Oh, David,” Jenny said. “I wish we could help this child!”
“What about if we tried to qualify as foster parents?” David asked. “You’re a nursery school teacher, surely that will help?”
Jenny wasn’t sure, but she and David went down to Child Services and had a chat with Rita’s social worker. “I’m at the end of my rope with Rita,” she confessed. “Wherever I place her, she runs away!”
“Maybe we could try?” asked Jenny shyly. “It would be just her, not a bunch of other children. And we’d do our best…”
It took over six months for the Gideons to qualify, but finally, Rita was allowed to go home with them. “Rita,” David said. “If you are ever unhappy with us, tell us and we will take you back. You don’t have to run away.”
“It’s just that my mom might come looking for me,” Rita whispered. “And she will think…What if she can’t find me?”
“I tell you what,” Jenny said. “We will write a letter and leave it at the orphanage and with the social worker so your mom will know where to find you, okay?”
Rita was delighted with the idea. As time went on, she stopped being so obsessed with her mother’s return and started to act like a happy, normal little girl.
By the time she was seventeen, she and the Gideons were talking about formalizing their relationship through adoption. “You are my mom and dad,” Rita said. “I’d be proud to have your name.”
Jenny and David wept for joy at hearing Rita’s words, but those happy days would soon be threatened by an unexpected visitor: Rita’s biological mother.
“Rita, honey,” Gail Silver said. “Mommy’s come to take you home!”
Once, Rita would have been delighted to see her mother, but she was now seventeen, not seven. “Why did you come to fetch me? Why now?”
“Why sweetie,” Gail said smiling widely. “Because I love my baby girl, that’s why!”
“You dumped me ten years ago,” Rita pointed out. “So what’s changed now?”
Gail looked uneasy. “Now, Rita, don’t be unkind to your mamma!” she said. “I left you ’cause I had no money, but now your granddaddy died and he was rich…”
“So you inherited his money?” asked Rita.
“Well,” Gail hesitated. “Not exactly, honeybunch! He left it to YOU, in a trust fund. But momma’s gonna make sure you get everything that’s coming to you. You’ll be rich, baby girl. That money is all yours, all yours!”
Gail’s sudden reappearance made the Gideons very uneasy, especially when she insisted that Rita go with her to her dead father’s lawyer to claim her inheritance.
“Be careful, Rita,” David told his daughter, but she just smiled and kissed him goodbye. When they arrived at the lawyer’s office, he asked to see Rita’s ID and showed her the documents.
“This says that your trust fund will be managed by your guardian until your eighteenth birthday, which is in six months’ time,” the lawyer said.
“Go ahead and sign it, sweetie,” Gail said. “And we can go shopping. You can have anything you want!”
Rita shook her head. “My dad says we shouldn’t sign anything before reading it through,” she said. “Can you change this where it says ‘guardian’ to ‘court-appointed guardian’? Then I’ll sign.”
“Oh for God’s sake!” Rita cried impatiently. “Change the bloody thing!”
The lawyer had the document changed and reprinted, and Rita signed it, initialing every page carefully. As soon as she finished signing, Rita snatched up the paper.
“That money is mine to do as I see fit until she turns eighteen!” she said to the lawyer. “So hand it over.”
“Sorry,” Rita said calmly. “I’m afraid my court-appointed guardians are David and Jenny Gideon. They will be administering my trust fund, not you.”
“How could you!” screamed Gail angrily. “You OWE me! I’m your mother!”
Rita shook her head. “You know what? You gave me nothing, so that is what you get — NOTHING!”
What can we learn from this story?
- Parents are not those who give birth to us, but those who raise us. Rita’s true family was the Gideons, not the scheming mother who had abandoned her.
- Those who live by scheming and cheating will always end up empty-handed. Gail was preparing to rob her daughter of her inheritance, but Rita was too clever for her.