This assembly discusses being scared when students are lost, and offers advice as to what they should do when they are

A couple of weeks ago a boy got locked in the toilets at an outdoor centre, and the coach back to school left without him.

The story of the boy left behind locked in a toilet has obvious lessons about school procedures, but for children the assembly deals with the fears that all children have of being locked in places, separated from other people, or left behind. It reassures them that they are not alone in such fears, that it’s quite normal and that there are things they can do to help themselves.

Not long ago, an eight year old boy called Jack was an outdoor centre with his class. When the coach was due to leave, Jack was in the toilet. Then he found he couldn’t open the door to get out, and would you believe the coach left without him. He wasn’t in any danger, because he was still in the outdoor centre, and when he did get out, the outdoor centre people were able to contact the coach and it came back for him. But all the same it was a scary moment for Jack. One of those things that all of us worry about is being left behind, or stuck, or separated from the people we’re with. That’s a very natural feeling, and I think if you ask around you’ll find that everyone’s experienced something like that at some time. Here are some adults talking about their scary moments.

‘Scary moments? I’ll tell you. We were in Naples on a Mediterranean cruise. The ship was due to leave at six o clock and the captain said he’d leave behind anyone who wasn’t on board. Well, there were four of us in our family; me, my wife, and the twins Jake and Jenny, and we took a taxi for quite a long distance trip. The driver said he’d get us back to the ship for five thirty, but we got stuck in traffic and we were crawling along. At six o’clock we could see the ship, but we were in a traffic jam. We could hear the ship too, because the captain was blowing the whistle. He made it sound as if he was annoyed, as if the whistle was saying, “Come on! Come on!”’

‘I’ve never felt so terrible in my life. All the family were depending on me. I thought we’d be stuck in this Italian port, in our shorts and T shirts, with no money and no way of knowing what to do. I’m Dad, you see. I’m supposed to know everything and never get anything wrong. And here I was getting all the family into trouble. It was a warm day, but I felt quite cold inside.

‘Well, the taxi screeched on to the dock, and the gangway was still down, and there was an officer pacing about and looking at his watch, and waving his arms for us to get on board. All the people were looking over the rail of the ship. I felt such a fool, but I was so grateful they waited for us. It was so good to get through the door into the ship and see all the smiling faces of the staff. I’ve never been late for anything since.’

‘Scary moments? I’m 70 now, but I remember being locked in a toilet at school when I was about six. Some big boys shoved me in there and somehow wedged the door. I was so scared. I thought I’d never get out, and I wouldn’t be able to go home and – well, I don’t know what I thought. It was just the most terrible feeling you can have, of being on your own and stuck. Of course I got out in the end. I really don’t remember how. I just remember that awful feeling of being stuck in a toilet. Even now I don’t like to think of it.’

‘Scary moments? I once got lost in a shop. I was very small, but I remember it. Suddenly my mum wasn’t there. I was surrounded by all these people. So I just stood there and cried. And a really kind shop lady comforted me and took me to stand on a counter so my mum could see me from wherever she was, and she came to me nearly straight away. I was only lost for five minutes but I’ve never forgotten it.’

Robbie was still crying.

‘Can we go home now Mum?’ he said.

‘OK, Rob,’ said his Mum. ‘If that’s what you want. But the day’s only just started really.’

‘I still want to go home,’ said Robbie. ‘I don’t like it here any more.’

Robbie, you see, had just a bad experience. He was at a big shopping mall with his mum and he’d got lost. His mum had gone into a shop, and she thought Robbie was with her, but he just kept on walking and suddenly found himself on his own. So straight away he turned and ran back, but of course he ran past the shop where his mum was into a very busy area in the middle of the shopping centre. Meanwhile, his mum had looked around for him in the shop and realised he wasn’t there.

In the end Robbie was on his own for quite a long time wandering around and trying hard not to cry. And his mum was doing exactly the same. In the end, Robbie decided he’d have to ask an adult for help. But he didn’t want to just to go up to anybody. He had to choose. He remembered seeing some people in uniforms, security people who walked around the shopping centre keeping watch for people causing trouble or having problems. He eventually found a pair of them, a man and a lady, and told them he was lost. They were kind to him and one of them spoke into his portable radio. Then they walked with him to a little office between two of the shops. Robbie heard an announcement on loudspeakers all over the shopping centre.

‘We have a little boy called Robbie in the security office here waiting for his Mum.’

His mum appeared in no time, looking really relieved and happy. She thanked the security people and took Robbie off to a café for a drink and a cake.

But Robbie just wanted to go home.

‘You’re OK now,’ said his Mum. ‘We’ll go home if you want. But you usually like it here.’
Robbie tried explain how he felt.

‘It just seems so, well, strange, somehow now,’ said Robbie. ‘Not friendly any more.’

‘OK,’ said Mum. ‘We’ll go home. You’ll feel better there.’

When Robbie got home, the family dog, Jack, ran to him, and Robbie put his arms round him and felt suddenly a lot better.

For Robbie, a place he liked had suddenly turned into a place that seemed less friendly. Maybe he’ll get over that. Or maybe he’ll always be a bit scared of the shopping centre, wanting to be sure of staying close to his Mum. Places can be like that. They can seem threatening, especially if we’ve had a bad experience there. We all like to feel safe and secure, with the people who love us and look after us. And when we feel like that we want to be at home with the things that belong to us.

A prayer
Lord, we thank you for the people who look after us and keep us safe. Please help all people who are frightened or lost. Give them courage, and help them to return to the people who care for them.

A thought
Being lost is a bad feeling. But being found and coming home is a very good feeling.

Things to think about
Robbie found security people in uniform. That was a good idea. Who else might he have found? Police officers perhaps, or he might have gone into a big shop and gone up to someone working in the shop. Most big shops are used to looking after lost children. Or he could have asked another Mum or Dad – an adult with children. The wrong thing would have been to go out of the shopping centre.

Links Jack’s story is at

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2010

About the author: Gerald Haigh