One morning I looked out my front window and saw a scene similar to the above, only there wasn't a forest in sight. There was just a little boy, walking down the shoulder of the main 2-lane highway. He was in no hurry, just kicking at rocks as he made his way down the road. My oblique vantage point didn't allow me to see the full scene around him, but I naturally assumed a grown-up was close by, and went back to taking care of my little boys.
Not long after, I happened to glance out the window once again, and there he was, as before. Something wasn't right. I ran outside, saw no supervision in sight, so I approached him to ask his name--Tommy I think--and where he lived. He didn't say much but I wasn't going to leave him on the main road. I brought him home.
While he played with my kids I phoned all the neighbors who were home, and no one had heard a thing about a lost boy. Someone, somewhere was missing him. I reported the wandering boy to the sheriff. A deputy arrived to interview him. The boy could only say his first name and had no idea where he lived and couldn't say his parents' names. There had been zero reports of a missing child. Deputy would start an investigation. He took a quick glance around my house, I guess to see if it was safe, and asked me to take care of the boy until his family was found. He was at my house for about the next 5 hours.
Periodically the deputy checked in with me. Everything was fine at my house, and he still had no reports of a missing child. You know what began to nag at me at that point? There was one house in the neighborhood with a brand new family that I hadn't met yet. I wondered if this could be their boy. But if he was, they would have called the sheriff hours ago to report him missing.
Well, several neighbors phoned throughout the day to check on progress in the case. And then, after school let out, a neighbor on the next street over had an odd experience. A girl about 10 years old knocked on her door to ask if she had seen her 4-year old brother that day. The woman immediately contacted me. It turned out this girl was from that new family who had just moved in.
The girl told the neighbor that her brother had been missing since morning. While her mom had been asleep he slipped out. She stayed home crying and praying all day. It sounded like she never ventured out to look for him, and never called the sheriff. I can't imagine. Anyway, I loaded him and my kids in the car, and my next door neighbor too, and we brought him home. The girl answered the door. Her mom was "taking a shower" so we never did talk to her. They moved away about a week later and none of us ever met the parents.
End of story. We can all imagine the wrenching agony that poor mom went through that day. It's impossible to understand why she wasn't proactive in looking for her son. I'll never know. The ending was a happy one for which I'm glad.