A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


When it comes right down to it, I'm not sure why I felt so driven to help.

I mean, I didn't know the family or anything. I had never seen the girl until her picture was flashed on a television screen along with an anxious report that she had been taken from her home in the middle of the night.

I was outraged by the act. How could one so brazenly violate the sanctity of the home? We talked about it as a family. We followed the news reports. We prayed for the girl and her family, and for those who were searching for her.

But somehow that wasn't enough. Somehow I had to do more.

And so I decided to volunteer to search. Not that I expected to be the one to find her. What were the odds of that happening? She had been kidnapped several days earlier, and in all that time there hadn't been a trace of evidence to suggest her whereabouts or well-being. There was no reason to think my appearance on the scene would make a difference one way or another.

But I had to go. I just had to. Whether or not it made a difference in the search, it made a difference to me.

I think it was the girl's father who got to me. Something in his eyes. It was a look that I knew and understood a look that revealed great love, great pain, great anxiety, great hope. It was a look of fatherhood to the tenth power.

How could I NOT respond?

And so, like thousands of others male and female, young and old I arrived at the designated place for volunteering and . . . well . . . volunteered. My group of 20 volunteers was assigned to a neighborhood on the west side of town. We knocked on doors and asked questions. We tramped through fields. We searched school yards and construction sites. We scoured the shores of a river looking for . . . something. Anything. A tennis shoe imprint. A thread of maroon fabric. A blonde hair. Whatever might help us find this girl.

After about four hours of painstaking searching we came up with . . . nothing. Not a shred. Not a hair. Not a fragment of anything that might be useful in the search. The best that could be said is we allowed search organizers to cross one more neighborhood off their list. But no matter how hard you twist that fact to wring every ounce of accomplishment from it, there just isn't a lot of satisfaction there you know?

Then I saw her father on TV again that night. He was still troubled.

And concerned.

And exhausted.

Especially exhausted.

I hadn't been able to remove any of that from him. Nothing could do that, I knew, until his daughter is returned. But at least there was one less neighborhood for him to worry about that night. There were fewer fields for him to tramp through, fewer school yards and construction sites to search and one less river bank to scour.

And for that night, at least, that was something.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through