I know the feeling. There's an emptiness, a hollowed-out darkness inside of you. You look around and nothing or no one looks familiar. The sounds are harsher, and the lights glare in your eyes every time you lift your head to look around. But most of the time your head is down in despair because you cannot believe it...you're lost!
You might think I was talking about a child. But the truth is I have felt that way as an adult.
I was reminded of that on Saturday when Marianne and I were in a local Barnes and Noble bookstore. We often wander around separately. She heads off to check on things of interest to her and I…I just wander. It comes very easily to me now. I wander because I want to watch and meet people. I try not to intrude, but it just happens. Often I can't go ten minutes without having a conversation with someone.
Most times you can browse through a bookstore in relative peace and quiet. Not this time. I should have known something was up when we were greeted by five or six young ladies wearing reindeer and elf hats. The store was packed with parents and children because, believe it or not, Santa was there! Children darted in and out of the aisles, while parents’ attention was divided between the books and the kids.
For whatever reason I noticed a young boy who didn't seem as enthused as the others. I heard one woman say, "Is he okay?" She didn't stop to find out. I wanted to help, but was concerned that in times like this a perfect stranger approaching a child could easily be misconstrued as evil in the making.
I tried to get the attention of one of the "elves" passing by, but she was too caught up in the image on a poster of the star from the latest vampire movie. "Oh, my God, he's gorgeous!" she shouted and then darted away.
Finally I saw the child start to cry. He stopped and turned toward me. He was rubbing his eyes, now red from tears and the thought of never finding his parent. I decided I had to help in spite of the fact that I was indeed a stranger.
"Young man, are you lost?" I asked.
Still rubbing his eyes he sniffled, looked up at me and said in a muffled whisper, "Yes."
I pointed out that we were right near the kiosk in the center of the store. "Look, why don't you go over there..." I started to say when suddenly I heard, "Paul! Paul!"
A man rushed through the crowd, and the young boy ran to him, burying his face in the man's chest. I smiled with great satisfaction and heard a woman nearby say to me, "That was kind of you to help him." I felt relieved and oddly validated as being one of the good guys in this world.
Here is what I loved the most. I have seen parents and children reunited in similar situations. Most parents scream and yell at the child for having wandered off. This man held and comforted his son. Chills enveloped my body. My own eyes filled with tears as I walked away. But it wasn't over. Later I found the same man down on his knees holding his son, Paul. He repeated this again and again..."Son, I would never leave you. Never, ever, ever, ever leave you."
I am shaking even as I write this now, not just because of how wonderful that was, but because I swear to you, I heard it as if God was speaking to me. "Son, I will never leave you. Never, ever, ever, ever leave you!"
This "little boy lost" was found again at 59.