Bobby started begging for food in Winterset, Iowa, but no one knew where he lived until Father Harris followed him to the outer limits of the small town. Then the priest discovered what was truly going on.
Almost everyone in Winerset, Iowa, knew each other. Father Harris had grown up in this small town, and it was a tight-knit community. That’s why he found it strange when some of his parishioners mentioned a little boy in the area.
“Yes, Father. A little boy named Bobby comes to my house every couple of days asking for food. He can’t be older than seven or eight years old,” Mrs. Santiago told him after Sunday mass. “Can we do something to help him?”
“He only asks you for food?” the priest asked.
“Yes, I always give him a little something. He said it was for his sick mom who couldn’t work anymore. But when I asked him where he lived, he said ‘There,’ and pointed in a random direction. I don’t think he has a home, but I can’t be sure,” Mrs. Santiago clarified.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mrs. Santiago. I’ll ask around and see if others know more about this boy,” Father Harris assured the older woman. But almost everyone in town said the same thing.
One older man, Mr. Jenkins, said that he had seen the boy sitting on the bus stop crying the other day. He tried to approach Bobby, but the kid ran off. He might not be comfortable around men, Father Harris thought.
But mostly, Bobby came to people’s houses, asking for food, then left immediately. Some folks confirmed that he got spooked whenever someone mentioned going with him to see his mother. So Father Harris decided to take action.
Eventually, he spotted the little boy walking around town with a bag full of food. The kid was headed to the outer limits of Winterset, which consisted of empty lands with no one around. Now the priest was worried.
Winterset might not be the coldest town in America, but it could get pretty nippy that time of the year. Father Harris decided to follow the boy as subtly as he could. At some point, he lost sight of him and almost lost hope of finding him that night until a dog barked.
The dog was right outside a tiny, rundown hut on an empty lot. It was surrounded by snow and must have been so cold inside. Bobby came out to see why the dog was barking, and his eyes flared after seeing Father Harris.
“Don’t worry, Bobby. I’m here to help. People around town told me about you. Is your mother inside? May I talk to her?” Father Harris inquired him while moving closer.
“Can you really help us?” Bobby wondered innocently. After Father Harris guaranteed that he was only there to help, Bobby went back into the hut. He came out again almost immediately with a little girl who couldn’t be older than four.
“Is this your sister, Bobby?” Father Harris wondered.
“Yes. We don’t have a mom anymore. Mom died some time ago, and our dad disappeared even before that. I was afraid mean adults would separate us. We ran here with Sparkie. He protected us. But people are nice here,” Bobby revealed.
“Of course, people are nice here, Bobby. Everyone is worried about you, and they want to help you,” Father Harris added, hoping to build trust with the kids. He also started patting Sparkie, a beautiful German Shepherd.
“But we can stay here together. I want to find a job. I can take care of my sister,” Bobby insisted in his high-pitched voice, pointing at the hut behind them.
Father Harris sighed. “Bobby, you have taken care of your sister already. But you also need someone to help you out. It will get too cold this time of the year. You need proper shelter. But I can promise you that no one will ever separate you,” the priest swore.
“What about Sparkie?” the little girl asked, speaking up for the first time.
“What’s your name?” Father Harris replied.
“Ok, Rosie. I also promise that Sparkie will be with you guys. Don’t worry. He’s part of your family too,” the priest comforted them. “Now, will you come with me to the church? I have nice warm food for all of you, including Sparkie.”
Bobby agreed as the nights they had spent in the hut had been pretty scary. He encouraged his sister, and they followed the priest. Sparkie trailed behind them without hesitation. There was a utility room and extra cots available at the church. Father Harris would have everything set up for them.
They ate and went to sleep, with Sparkie curled on the floor next to their beds. The following day, Father Harris asked around and estimated that the boy’s mother must have died approximately three months ago. Then he called CPS to see about finding them a home.
The social worker revealed that authorities had been looking for the kids all this time. She thanked him for finding them and talked about placing them with a foster family immediately.
However, Mrs. Santiago told him to tell the social worker that a couple in town had been trying to have kids for ages. “The McCarthys are so nice. They would be wonderful parents, and I know they love dogs too,” the older woman insisted.
Father Harris discussed it with the social worker, who agreed as long as the couple filed paperwork, went through an inspection, and became official foster parents. Meanwhile, the kids stayed in the utility room of the church, and Father Harris and the nuns took care of them.
Two weeks after being found, Bobby and Rosie moved in with the McCarthys, who couldn’t have been more thankful to Father Harris and Mrs. Santiago for everything. Everyone in town was happy to help them out.
What can we learn from this story?
- Don’t turn a blind eye to someone who needs help. Most people might have ignored the little boy who came to their houses, but the people in Winterset wanted to help him.
- You step up for your family. Little Bobby did everything to feed and protect his sister, even though he was still a kid.
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