Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Let No Stone Remain Unturned

Looking for a missing person can sometimes be like looking out over a sea of stones. It is vast and it appears infinite, although it is not. The seeker walks upon this sea of stones, overturning one now and then, searching for the one that will reveal the answer to the question. Where is the lost one?

The seeker continues to turn the stones, and none yet yields the desired results. As the seeker walks this path, he starts to realize the task he is faced with. His back aches from bending over and his arms become stiff from lifting the stones. He is exhausted, mentally and physically. Despite these pains, he continues on.

Some call to him from beyond the sea of stones. They tell him to stop and that it’s useless; there are just too many stones. They beg him to stop because they think that he may pick the right stone, and that when he looks underneath it, he may find an answer that he (and they) do not want to see. They are afraid.

What is better: to have loved and taken the risk of being hurt, or to have never loved at all? We cannot stop experiencing what life holds, both the good and the bad, any more than we can stop breathing and yet continue to live.

Life is not just about us, in fact, it is about everyone else. There are many who stand at the edge of the sea of stones. They watch and they wait. Sometimes they enter the sea and pick up a stone themselves. Some of them call out encouragement to the seeker and some of them provide much needed nourishment and sustenance.

To choose the stone that bears a frightening answer is not what the seeker desires. The stone has already been placed, and what lies underneath cannot be altered, it can only be overturned. The stone may contain an answer that brings great joy to all who love the lost one, and it may not.

They all have a share in the search in their own way, and because it is a quest of all those who love the one who is lost, no one person can dictate the number of stones to be overturned. For the ones who fear, they cannot allow their fears to conquer them. They will be comforted and come to understand that they must allow for the good of the greater number. Just as the powerful love of the seeker for the lost one gives the seeker the strength to go on, those who fear must let love guide them.

In this circle of love for the lost one, the others reach out to those who fear, grasping those trembling hands into their own warm, steady ones. Together, and with renewed strength, they look out upon the sea of stones. The seeker pauses for a moment, and looks back to see the united front. His arms feel lighter and his back relaxed in that moment of understanding.

When the time comes for the right stone to be overturned, then it is that same love that will sustain us if the answer is a hard one. However, that stone may also yield an answer that warms our hearts. No matter the answer, we seek because we love. We do it for the lost one and we do it for all of those who love him. We cannot limit the number of stones to be upturned any more than we can tell someone not to love, or to love less. We can thank God for the greatest gift of all, love.

My Note:

This is a piece I wrote in response to a question asked by a family we serve. They were struggling with the emotions that we who live in the "not knowing" deal with on a daily basis.

It has since been published in the National Center for Missing Adults newsletter, and I also used it as the basis of my keynote speech at the New York State Missing Person's Day this Spring.


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