Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lost and Found

I have been thinking a lot about him ever since I read about him in the paper. His name is Francisco. He is thirteen- years-old and he was lost. He lives in New York and it might be closer to the truth to say that he intentionally moved into the realm of the lost. He did so by running away from his home and riding the subways. He spent eleven days and nights riding miles beneath the vast city above him, managing to evade detection even though he rode in plain sight. He survived on what little he could buy from newsstands. He stretched the ten dollars he had and bought potato chips, croissants and jelly rolls. He drank bottled water. He used a bathroom at the Coney Island Station to wash his face and scrub his teeth.
Francisco has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism that makes social relations difficult and that can sometimes lead to isolation. A kid like Francisco has a hard time learning to connect – a painful condition as it is but especially so in a society that places such a premium on any kind of connectedness. Francisco struggles to communicate what is within his heart and on his mind – especially when a situation bears down on him demanding an immediate response. He felt he was in trouble at school and was afraid to go home. So, he sought a hiding place on the subway and rode train after train until he was spotted by an alert policeman. The policeman was one of many looking for Francisco and recognized the little boy from a flier that had been distributed throughout every precinct in the New York and surrounding areas.
But Francisco never saw the signs and according to one article I read, he said that he was prepared to remain in the subway system forever.
His family will have an especially happy thanksgiving because Francisco will be home, at the table, surrounded by a grateful and loving family. Yet his mom worries that it will happen again. She knows that Francisco might panic and bolt again if he feels trapped by his inability to communicate. “I tell him: “Talk to me. Tell me what you need. If I ever make a mistake, tell me.” She paused and said, “I don’t know, as a mother, how to get to his heart, to find out what hurts.”
I wonder how many of us identify with Francisco. We might be adults, even well on in years, and yet the sense of feeling lost may lie close beneath the surface of our lives. Life is such a long ride, and we all have difficulty communication who we are or where we really need to go, or even where we come from. There are no maps, no education, and no kind of learning or fortune-teller who can give us the definite answers to the mysteries of life. Yet there are miles and miles ahead of us. And we ride with a hope that God will somehow find us and bring us home.
Francisco is and always was surrounded by a lot of love. He lost a sense of it as he rode. He said he felt numb and lost a sense of time. But that did not stop others from looking for him and loving him all the more when he was found.
I do not think there are any sure answers in this life. But I do think we can cultivate a sensitivity to the lost riders that we all are, and trust that we will all be found. That is something for which to be thankful. And perhaps we should remember this: that God rides within us, within each of us, and has found out to reach out and offer a warn direction to those who ride with a quiet desperation. Human kindness goes a long way, and can ease the pain of an eleven day ride in the dark or a lifetime of searching in the bright light of day. It is God’s way of getting to our hearts.

1 comment:

4get2remember said...

Thanks for sharing. I think love and kindness is always, always a good answer.