Driving to the middle school this morning, things were different. The air was cold, frost was on the ground, the sky was blue, and a police helicopter was in the air circling around the neighborhood. The brilliant colors of a hot air balloon were peeking through the tops of the trees. It was close by, and it looked like it was landing, or taking off right in the middle of the street -- which was unusual.
The carpool speculated as to why a hot air balloon was in the middle of the street, and a police helicopter was hovering in and around the school. Me -- I thought the helicopter was the Border Patrol on a drug bust. Anna guessed it was looking for a thief who had just stolen a car. Johnathan said "I think they are looking for someone who is lost. It happens you know." In my head I thought "Yeah, that guess is about as far off as you can get Johnathan." But when I got home, I learned that he was right.
When I sat down at my computer, I had a slew of emails all saying the same thing: "An autistic boy in our neighborhood wandered away from his home in the middle of the night and is lost. We need every available body to meet at Chelsea Estates to look for him as soon as you can."
I looked at those emails and I broke into tears. I thought about the parents of the lost boy and how they must be feeling at this very moment. Their son had been missing for 7 hours. It made me think of the time we lost Claire -- for 15 minutes when she was barely two years old. Fifteen short minutes that seemed like an eternity. She wandered out of the back yard. I had been shopping that day, and Matt was on baby-sitting duty. I pulled up to the house and saw him frantically hunting through the bushes. He said "Claire left the backyard, and I can't find her." In my entire life, I've never felt more panic that I did at that moment. We lived right off a busy thoroughfare, and we had a huge storm drain right in front of our house. I started imaging all sorts of horrible things. Right then, I prayed harder than I've ever prayed in my life -- desperate pleas for immediate help. I laid down on the asphalt and peered into the storm drain, but it was too deep to see whether Claire had fallen in. So I got up and started to pull up the manhole cover. Just then we heard a faint cry that was coming from the neighbor's yard. We ran to their back gate, and sure enough, it was Claire who went next door to play on the swings as the gate closed behind her. She had been trapped. I dropped to my knees and cried for a good 20 minutes. I was so thankful that she was safe.
Luckily, my morning appointment had been canceled, so I got in my car to help search for the lost boy -- a stranger to me, but a neighbor nevertheless. I drove to a local shopping center where a rescue operation had been erected. As I pulled into the parking lot, I saw other women and men who had responded to the call for help -- all familiar faces. I knew every single one of them. There were many others who had arrived much earlier, who were already driving neighborhoods searching for the boy who we learned was named Stevie.
I looked at all these people I knew, and thought "Wow, it is something to belong to an organization -- like a church, that has the ability to mobilize hundreds of people on a moments notice." I am thankful for that, because I know if I were the person in trouble, I would have an army behind me too. And, I am thankful for technology. We are so blessed to live in a time where there is an internet where we can Facebook, and email for help when we need it. And texting . . . to get the word out that someone is in trouble.
I stood there in the parking lot with the rest of the volunteers and waited for instruction which came about 30 minutes later. A police woman came out of the trailer and informed us that Stevie had been found sleeping in a safe place near the vineyards -- about 2 miles away. Cheers erupted from the crowd and we dispersed to get back to our daily routines.
Days like this remind me that I am grateful to live in a place like Temecula, where there are good people who take the time to help each other.
But, I know Temecula isn't the only town with good people. There are good people everywhere. I've found them in every place that I've lived. I'm grateful for that too.