A Changed Self-Image

for the week of August 19, 2002
by Rubel Shelly

The residents of Abilene, Texas — along with the rest of us who had heard of the kidnaping via national news — got to celebrate last week. One-month-old Nancy Crystal Chavez was returned to her family after a harrowing 24-hour ordeal. The baby had been abducted from a Wal-Mart parking lot Tuesday.

Margarita Chavez had finished shopping and was seating her three children in a minivan. In the few seconds it took to stow a shopping cart some ten feet away, a woman dashed to her vehicle, snatched her baby girl, and started to drive away. Ms. Chavez realized instantly what was happening.

Enter Roberto Cano, a 13-year-old who was headed into Wal-Mart with his mother. "I heard a bunch of screaming, ‘My baby! My baby!' I looked over there, and I saw a lady," he said. "Nobody was helping her. Everybody was just standing there looking." Roberto rushed over and tried to open the passenger- side door, but it was locked. So he shouted for the driver to stop.

The woman who had taken the baby looked at the eighth-grader and laughed at his attempt to intervene. "She was laughing — until I punched the window," Roberto said. "Then her mouth dropped. She was scared." She got away. But her pursuer rode with officers to the police station and gave a remarkably accurate description to a sketch artist. He chuckled later about the irony. "It was the first time I ever rode in a cop car without going to jail," he said.

Roberto started messing with drugs at age 11 and was jailed in the juvenile facility at Abilene last year. He was released June 14 of this year and, according to his probation officer, has been determined to turn his life around. In fact, he and his mother had just come from the probation office that afternoon.

Roberto said the thing that drew him into the situation was the anguished cry of the baby's mother. It made him recall his own mother's tears. "When I was locked up, my mom used to cry for me like that. I just know how much love moms have for their kids." Ah, the redeeming power of a mother's love!

A troubled kid. A loving mother. A chance to be different. A brave action. A new image in his hometown. I pray that Roberto embraces that new image in his mind and keeps living out the likeness to God that moved him that fateful day.

Maybe two hostages were set free last week. Roberto, you're not "a bad kid with a police record." You're a hero. May your new self-image serve you well.



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