How many times has someone tried to make you feel foolish for holding out hope for a missing child? In the face of overwhelming odds, you have no doubt been made to feel this way at some point if you have been volunteering on missing persons cases for any length of time.
Society has a brutal way of quashing hope. We see it every day in the way the media covers a case. We deal with it on a daily basis in the chat rooms and on facebook pages as we muddle through and exhaust ourselves trying to convince others that this one can beat the odds, this one doesn't have to be another statistic. We encounter this every time we tell a friend or colleague that another child has been found murdered and that colleague's response is, "Well, I figured that's what would happen." It is a constant and uphill battle. It is not enough that we must fight through the rising emotions of fear and anger that are constantly threatening to overtake us, we must at the same time fend off the barrage of negativity and doubt thrown in our faces.
People can make comments to us that make us feel almost embarrassed for daring to believe that a child could be found alive after an abduction, especially if that child has been missing for an extended period of time. However, look at the case of Elizabeth Smart or Jaycee Dugard, what about Shawn Hornbeck? Try to tell their parents or loved ones, or those of us who worked on those cases that hope does not matter. Sometimes it seems we keep going just to spite those who would try to convince us we are wasting our time.
These may be well-meaning people who believe it is their duty to inform us that the odds of finding a child safe after a disappearance are slim to nil, or friends who have become jaded and cynical enough to believe that it is just too dangerous to hope. It is just too painful to become emotionally invested. What they do not seem to understand is that hope is the glue that is holding us together, keeping us going, and without it, we simply do not know how to move forward.
Hope is what we cling to when the detectives have nothing new to tell us. Hope is how we go out to one more day of searching, one more day of painstakingly combing over every square inch of ground at an excrutiatingly slow pace so nothing is missed, even when nothing is found for days or weeks. Hope is how we deal with meticulously scouring the internet resources for contacts, email addresses and fax numbers to find that one person out there that might recognize this child and when we don't get any response, hope is how we are able to get up another day and begin the whole process all over again. Hope and faith are not merely something we say to one another to cheer each other up. They are at the very core of what we do and at the heart of why we do it.
The Bible tells us that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is worth more to us because of the very nature of what we do. It is worth more than kind words, more than accolades, and it will keep us going through even the worst kind of tragedy.
I've known many people who have said to me, "You better be careful, you should not give those people false hope. They are only going to be more disappointed and hurt in the end." If only I had the same chrystal ball that these individuals did, I could save so much time. The reality is, none of us knows what the outcome of any particular case will be. I have seen things take the strangest turns when initially things seemed so obvious, so black and white that even seasoned law enforcement were stunned at the outcome. I am not suggesting that we broadcast to everyone that we are definitely going to have a happy ending with a particular case, I am only saying that we dare not suggest otherwise until we have solid evidence to do so. We do not want to cast doubt on the outcome and risk alienating people who would otherwise be willing to help. Likewise, we do not want to give our volunteers any reason to give up.
Do not let those who would hamper your involvement on these cases get the better of you. Perhaps they are trying in their own way to prepare you for what they are sure will be a tragic outcome. Keep going, keep hoping and know that at the end of the day, you will have done the right thing by not giving up on that child and not giving in to fear and doubt. There are children out there whose lives may very well depend on that.
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