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Finding Hope

I have a love/hate relationship with social media. As I am a terrible introvert, sites like Facebook do wonders for breaking me out of my shell, allowing me to share a little of myself without sharing all of myself. Social media has helped me become friends with people who might not otherwise get to know me, because my shyness and resting bitch face often interfere with my ability to open up to people.

But we all know there's a dark side to social media, particularly in today's political climate. The anonymity of the computer screen allows people to say truly terrible things that they would never say to one another's faces. We see it in school children, otherwise decent adults, and our president. Some days, the vitriol I see online is enough to make me want to break all of my electronic gadgets.

I was in the middle of a social media funk, wanting to delete everything and live in a cave, when my niece went missing on Saturday. This complicated teenager, the family's first grandchild, who memorized the Animaniacs "Nations of the World" song as a grade schooler, who as a 9-year-old insisted I take a video of her reciting all 50 states in alphabetical order from memory, who as a teenager has taught herself several foreign languages, who has so many talents and so many challenges ... this beautiful girl was nowhere to be found. The details are many and nuanced, and I'm not going to get into them. I'm not going to tell you how she got lost or where she ended up, but I will tell you how she was found.

When we were running out of ideas, when we were realizing there was no way to check every nook and cranny of the city, even with the police on the job, because there was no way to guess where my niece's beautiful, unique brain would lead her -- that's when we appealed to everyone else. A couple members of my family, including myself, wrote Facebook posts pleading for help finding my niece. Within a few minutes, the posts were being shared. Within a couple hours, they had been shared hundreds of times. People came out of nowhere offering to walk the streets in search of her. Friends I haven't seen in years jumped in their cars and started driving the neighborhoods. Strangers combed the streets and trails nearby -- I ran into one man who had tears in his eyes thinking of his friend's daughters who are of the same age. People we've never met were praying for her safety.

Then we started hearing from people who had seen her. Each time we got a message from someone who thought they'd seen her, we'd pass the information on to the police, and eventually we were developing a picture of where she had gone. My brother said that, when they found her, dozens of police and citizens were combing the neighborhood they'd zeroed in on, searching for her. And then there she was, cold and scared, and the police returned her to us. All because a bunch of people saw a post online, or took note of a reverse 911 call, or saw a news report, and took the time to notice, to care, and to say something.

Thank you, Colorado Springs. You gave my niece back to us. And you showed us that people are generally good, and they care, and they step up and help when it matters.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


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