Wanting To Be Found

Our Executive Director, Larry McDaniel, shares some thoughts and insights following a recent run away situation at Coyote Hill:

It was moving from late afternoon to early evening, and the setting sun was quickly leaving darkness in the woods and only moonlight in the fields. The temperature was moderate. Certainly not dangerous, but a little colder than comfortable. The teenage girl we were looking for had had a rough day … mostly of her own making, but still, a rough day. Finally, instead of letting us help her work through the issues, process things, talk about them, or even completely ignore the realities of the situation – sometimes kids (and adults) say they don’t want to discuss things, but they won’t let them be ignored either, so – she decided to just run away. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does we have a protocol we follow for the safety of the child. Part of that protocol is that if we don’t find the child within minutes, law enforcement is notified to help with the search. Sometimes kids will “run away” to the back yard, or behind the basketball court. Sometimes, as a young child, I would “run away” to the barn.

On this particular evening, however, the minutes had passed, the phone calls to law enforcement had already been made, and we were making one more sweep through the woods just to be sure. She would have heard us approaching on the ATV we were using to search the area, but she remained seated at a corner in the road, and was easily spotted by us as we approached. I asked if I could walk her home (we were actually less than 200 yards from the house) and she agreed to join me, while the others returned with the ATV.  On the way back home, we talked about all that had happened, the things going on in her life, and what possible options there might be at this point. But the parts of the conversation I remember the most had to do with her experience with running away. What was going through her mind? What was she hoping to accomplish? What was her ultimate goal? The answer to these questions can vary by the person and circumstance, of course, but for this particular teenage girl, the answers reminded me of how we, as adults, behave sometimes as well. Following are at least three ways I have found that to be true.

  1. We run away …
    All we’re really trying to do is to get someone’s attention at a whole new level. This is more about us (doing the running away) than it is those trying to understand or to help. Others say they are listening and paying attention, but we want to be sure. One way to be sure is to elevate the situation to a new level such that it would be impossible for anyone to ignore and not take seriously. Adults achieve this in different ways, but the desired effect is the same.
  2. … but we don’t run far.
    This is because we don’t really want to run completely away … just enough to make it respectable. We know that the home we are running away from is actually one of the best things that have ever happened to us, so we don’t want to lose it. We don’t even want to let it get out of our sight. We want to know that no matter what happens, we can safely find our way back home and try again.
  3. We pretend to hide, but we really want to be found.
    One of the first things the girl said to me when we started walking back to the house was, “I could have hidden from you if I wanted to.” It was important to her that I understand she was in control of the situation. But I also knew it was very important to understand that in her heart of hearts, she truly wanted to be found. That’s why she decided to sit down by the edge of the road when hearing us coming that way. She wanted us to look for her, and she wanted us to find her. We’re all that way sometimes. We run away from challenges or problems, or people … perhaps even family … but down deep inside we hope those family and friends bother to look for us, because we desperately want to be found. It shows that people really care. It shows there is a future.

Remember, in your relationships in life, if a family member, friend or loved one “runs away,” but doesn’t run far, they really want you to look for them. They won’t hide for long. They really want to be found. You’ll find them just a little ways from the house, sitting by the edge of the road, and down deep inside they are very happy to see you.                    ~~Larry McDaniel

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