My second daughter, who has Down syndrome, often went on "unauthorized walks" when she was young. It was not so much that she was running away, it was more that she was off on an adventure and had neglected to inform us of her intentions.
While there were some moments of panic as we tried to locate her, one of the most frightening times looking for her was when she was older and did not return home from her walk to the store.
She detoured to the park on her way home. Somehow, she turned around and instead of heading home, she crossed over another road and ended up in the chip yard at the local pulp mill. Once she was in there, she knew she was lost, but she thought she was going the right direction, and so she kept on walking.
It was a Sunday afternoon, not a full crew at work, and many acres of piles of wood chips to be lost in. We did all we could to look for her and were just getting ready to call the RCMP when a mill truck pulled into our driveway with a very relieved Ange in the front seat.
Over the years, in our adventure of living with Ange, there were countless times that people called or stopped in to tell us they had seen her at such and such a place, wanting to make sure we knew where she was. (She was a bit of a local legend at that point because of her capacity to slip away unnoticed).
Many times I marvelled with immense gratitude that she had so many people watching over her, and despite the many times that things could have gone terribly wrong, she always was returned safely.
We used to say that Ange had two guardian angels, for one was not enough to keep her safe. I think, though, the more accurate explanation for her safety is found in the First Reading this Sunday, from the prophet Isaiah.
Cyrus, the king of Persia, is named the servant of God, for even though Cyrus does not know God, yet he is the instrument used to release God's people from captivity in Babylon, returning them to their homeland and the task of the rebuilding of the Temple. God accomplishes his purposes, "for the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen."
Those who helped return Ange to her "homeland" were not all people who knew God, yet God was at work.
One of the difficulties being the age I am is that I have lived long enough to hear many stories of situations not turning out as well as it did for Ange and have seen too much of the pain in people's lives. At times it has challenged my fundamental trust in a God who cares about the little ones and will intervene on their behalf.
While I do not know the answer to the question of suffering, my lack of answers in no way lessens the truth of God's involvement in the life of his people so that "they may know . . . that there is no one besides me."
(Kathleen Giffin firstname.lastname@example.org)