I recently applied for a grant for 24 children in our community to play baseball this spring. Our goal is to field two teams this year to last year’s one. Twice as many uniforms; twice as many coaches; twice as much money; twice as many parents enjoying a season’s worth of heart-stopping action (as much as 1st through 4th graders can produce) and edge-of-their-seat excitement and the like, popcorn not included.
The organization to which I applied wanted to know what benefit it would receive for its financial contribution.
There’s the obvious: company advertisement on the child’s team shirt; promo in newsletters; end-of-season plaque for their wall.
But there’s also a benefit that cannot be measured. More on that in a moment.
Ever been lost?
Then you know what it’s like to be found.
In the May 8, 2013 edition of Discovery News, Talal Al-Khatib briefly chronicles a few of the lives of the lost and found.
Here are but two:
“Kidnapped in 2002 at age 14, Elizabeth Smart was among the most high-profile missing person cases in the United States. During her 9-month captivity, her kidnapper, Brian David Mitchell, who had been hired by Smart’s mother to fix the family’s roof, forced her to consume alcohol and watch pornography, and he repeatedly raped her.”
But she was found, thanks to the attention brought to her case and “since her rescue, Smart has become a vocal advocate for kidnapping and sexual abuse victims.”
In another instance of as-happy-of-an-ending-as-can-be-had given his ordeal, Shawn Hornbeck went missing in 2003 when he was 11 years old. He was found four years later during a search for another boy who had disappeared. The captor of the boys “was sentenced to 74 life sentences for kidnapping, child molestation and child pornography.”
Hornbeck, on the other hand, “went on to create a foundation to support the search and rescue of missing children.”
What Smart and Hornbeck have in common are great grief, unfathomable suffering, and a never-let-it-occur-again passion and commitment to make something beautiful happen if at all possible for others.
There are great organizations in Lakewood that work with children that are no doubt similarly motivated, rescue operations if you will. To name a few: Lakewood’s Promise, Communities-in-Schools, Caring for Kids, any church with a children’s program; any church that works with youth; any school teacher worth their salt and Lakewood Baseball Club which belongs to the national PONY league which acronym stands for “Protect Our Nation’s Youth.”
All those who work with young people know there’s the unmeasurable intangible; a cost associated with their commitment; a reward and a recognition and – let’s be honest – a good deal of irritation that are all and more a part of the journey – never to be quantified or verbalized in either awards for victories, nor that can near approximate the disappointments of defeat including not having found, in time, what was lost.
Al-Khatib writes that “in 2012, there were 661,593 missing person records entered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Crime Information Center. But of those, the vast majority, 659,514 to be precise, were cleared or canceled because the subject returned home or law enforcement quickly tracked the missing person down. Ninety-four percent of children who are kidnapped are found within the first three days.”
Poignantly and in retrospect is the sadness however upon discovery, with regards those not found alive or whose whereabouts remain unknown for a prolonged period of time even years upon years, of several missed opportunities for rescue along the way.
Every day we see missed opportunities with children that are missing – missing the memories to be had with a mentoring adult.
What is most difficult to measure in terms of benefits, using baseball as an example, is what it means to a boy – many of whom are so small they still require booster seats – when he sees a ball approach at 30 miles per hour which is the slowest a machine-pitched hardball can reach the plate from the mound 38 feet away without landing somewhere in-between, and then hears the crack of the bat – one he swung – and the cheers from the crowd that includes his mom (and hopefully his dad) and experiences the thrill of eventually touching home because he never stopped running.
Whatever that memory means to the child is what your work – whatever that work and the sponsorship of your work – with children makes possible.