Two stories converged this week.
Their similarities were as striking as their differences.
Ten years ago this month, hundreds of volunteers converged on a cornfield in Greene Township in search of a 2-year-old who had wandered off as a summer thunderstorm approached.
That child was found, thanks to the efforts of the entire community. Today, he’s a healthy, spunky middle school student.
This month, a young woman of 25 went missing from her home in Dunkirk. Unlike that 2-year-old from 10 years ago, she’s not an innocent.
She’s a young woman, like countless others, who has made some good decisions and some not so good ones.
But just like that 2-year-old, she’s loved and missed and worried about by her friends and family.
She may be the prodigal, but she would be welcomed home today with open arms by those who love her unconditionally. The fatted calf would be slain. The feast would be prepared. And there would be rejoicing of biblical proportions at the moment she returned.
It’s easy for a community to care about the fate of a cute little toddler who has wandered off into a cornfield. But the real measure of a community is how it responds when someone whose path has been imperfect also wanders off.
Do we only care when the missing child is a toddler? Or do we care for our toddlers after they’ve grown up, no matter what decisions they may have made?
The answer Friday night from the Dunkirk community is that people still care.
They’re not interested in second-guessing a person’s life. They’re not interested in making judgments.
All they know is that someone’s child is missing. And they understand the deep, deep pain that strikes in the heart when that happens.
It showed Friday night on the faces of those at the vigil for Brianna DiBattiste. It was demonstrated in the hugs and the handshakes and the tears and the words of helpless condolence.
People care. The community cares. And the community is hoping that, like the story 10 years ago when a 2-year-old was finally found and returned home, this all ends well. — J.R.