Ginger Littleton: Bad Mom or Hero?

Heather Murphy-Raines/Scout's Honor
The news blared in the background as I tap, tapped on my laptop. Suddenly, the kids gasped. They were watching a video of Clay Duke, the disgruntled gunman who had held Florida school board members hostage.

I watched, open-mouthed, as Duke released hostages. One, Ginger Littleton, was let go while her six colleagues were told to stay. And then she came back.

Bravely. Stupidly. Illogically. She came back and whacked at him with her faux-crocodile purse. The purse did little to sway Mr. Duke from his purpose and I gasped again as he put the gun point blank in her cowering face.

Illogically. He let her leave again. He let her live. In fact, everyone lived that day except Mr. Clay.

The legacy of that bravery comes in the form of that faux-crocodile purse. It was auctioned on eBay for $13,000.


The money will go to another hero's charity. The security guard who was able to wound Duke has a charity.  Time magazine reports:

Proceeds from the sale will go to Salvage Santa, a charity started by Mike Jones that restores old bicycles and toys and gives them to children in the Florida Panhandle around the holidays.

My mind scrambles to see the good in a gunman and hostage taking. My heart swells at how a woman, who is a wife, mother, and grandmother, cares so much about her co-workers she was willing to risk her own life.

What's a Hero's Purse Worth?
My friends, this is what true selflessness is and it is a rarity.  

I am both heartened and ashamed. Yes, ashamed.

I, myself, was witness to a crime the other day. I sat in a Seattle Starbucks tap-tapping away again while I waited for my kids' swim practices to end at the university nearby.

Suddenly, hours later, I raised bleary eyes and realized the only person who remained in the cafe -- besides the young baristas and myself -- was a grizzled, homeless man. 

Huge. Bearded. Dirty. With soulless, hardened eyes.

He caught my eye with those eyes and held it uncomfortably long. I avoided his gaze again as he stood in front of me, stretching

Then he sauntered over to another table by the door.

The table was deserted, except for a lone item. A purse. One of the young college frequenters must have left it. My eyes went to the purse, then back to the man. He caught my gaze again, held it,  and then brazenly started to rummage through the purse.

I looked toward the counter, but the baristas were in the back.

Afraid of his complete lack of fear of committing a crime in front of me, I froze and am ashamed to say that I did nothing. I looked away. Casually, he then walked back to sit at the table in front of me.

Nope, 9 p.m. in a darkened Starbucks on a deserted street, I did nothing, but hurriedly pack up my laptop bags and thank the universe that I had lucked upon a parking space escape  15 feet from the front door. As I came up to the counter, at the last minute, I grabbed the purse and loudly told the barista that a customer must have left it. She smiled, said thanks, and then I leaned in and mouthed, "He went through it."

Alarm entered her eyes. I said again sotto voce for HIS benefit, "You guys are closing up now, right?" 

I hoped he'd leave. Dispiritedly, she said, "No, 10 p.m." He stayed put in the chair.

What Would You Do?
I gave her a sorrowful look. My kids were done swimming. They were waiting for me in this bad neighborhood where criminals steal in plain sight. So I left the two young baristas -- alone -- in a deserted Starbucks. I left someone else's daughters there.

I felt horrible. Guilty. 

Nothing happened (I've checked the news often), but a part of me, the mother in me, says I should have come back with purse blazing and ushered that criminal out and away from those young girls.

A part of me yearns to be Ginger Littleton

Selfless. Brazen. Heroic.

Then the other part of me says, "Don't be stupid. You are a mother of three children who need you."


My friends, what would you have done in Ginger's place?  In my place? What would you have done with your purse?

Images via Scout's Honor/ and by kuaptic/Flicker and by nerissa's ring/Flickr

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