In 1974, we had just moved back to Salt Lake City, Utah, after completing my Master’s of Public Health degree at the University of Tennessee. My first wife Carol was recovering from surgery and radiation therapy for ovarian cancer. Paul was nearly four years old and we were staying in my parent’s home until I could find a job.
On this particular beautiful, fall afternoon Paul was outside playing with some kids in the neighborhood. Being a good and diligent son he came inside quite frequently to check in with his mom and grandma. At his age he knew that his mom had some serious health problem but he couldn’t comprehend how sick she really was. But he was concerned for her hence the main reason for checking in so often.
Around 4:00 or 4:30 his mom and grandma became worried because they hadn’t seen him in awhile and when they looked out the window they couldn’t see him with the other boys. Panic stricken they began a search for Paul. I got home about 5:00, discovered the problem, and left immediately to try to find my son. I got into the car and scoured the neighborhood while Grandma walked the neighborhood and Carol had to remain in the house and worry.
I come from a very religious family that believes in spiritual guidance so we pray regularly. My Mom and Carol had prayed for guidance and so did I when I got home. We received an answer to our prayers but it wasn’t until later when dad came home from work.
As he walked into the house he found my Mom and Carol in a frantic and emotional state. They explained what was happening and how worried they were for Paul’s safety. My Dad, always calm and in control of his emotions went into his bedroom and came out a few minutes earlier. We knew what he was doing. He was down on his knees praying for the protection of his grandson and the inspiration to know where to find him.
Without saying anything Dad walked out the back door and got into his car and drove a short distance. He found Paul exactly where he was prompted to look. You may wonder why we didn’t find Paul and the answer is simple. We didn’t look in the right place. You see my parent’s home was on a busy street and we thought we taught Paul not to cross that street because it was so dangerous. But Paul had crossed it and started walking south not knowing what lay ahead. He was lost without knowing it.
My dad was guided by inspiration to where Paul was and within ten minutes of leaving the house to look for him he returned with our most precious son whom we gratefully hugged and kissed.
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There are three resiliency messages that go with this story.
- First, teach our children safety and reinforce it again and again.
- Second, even if we are checking regularly on our small child don’t assume he will always be close to our line of sight.
- Third, be grateful he is okay and show him that gratitude by loving him and not getting angry.