Lost and Found, by Oliver Jeffers, is a sweet little story that reveals how easy it is to miss the point. It’s the story of how a boy found a penguin that looked so sad, he thought it must be lost. So, after enquiring all over where the penguin came from, he finally found out he was from the South Pole. So the boy and the penguin packed their things and set out to sea to find the penguin’s home. They traveled many days and nights, through good weather and bad, and all along, the boy entertained the penguin with stories. Each time the boy finished one story, the penguin asked for another, so on and on they traveled until they reached the South Pole.
The boy was delighted for the penguin to finally be where he belonged, but for some reason, the penguin wasn’t, and when the boy started to row back home, the penguin seemed sadder than ever. For a while the boy rowed away from the South Pole feeling sad that the penguin was still sad, and there was no one to listen to his stories, and then suddenly he realized he’d made a mistake. The penguin hadn’t been lost. It had just been lonely.
Quickly he turned his little boat around and rowed back to where he’d dropped off the penguin, but when he got there, his little friend was nowhere to be found. Finally he gave up and he started to make his way back home when suddenly he saw something in the water ahead of him. Lo and behold, it was the penguin rowing in an upside-down umbrella, trying to get to him.
I had a similar experience of realizing what I had been missing when I ran into something I wrote on the night I stayed in the hospital with Chandler after a bike accident. He was nine years old at the time, and on one day short of his tenth birthday, he was hit by a car and thrown off his bike into the street. A slight fracture in his knee, a concussion, and some scrapes and bruises on his body landed him in the hospital overnight, and I elected to stay with him.
I must tell you, secretly I loved being there. There were no complaints from me. I remember that night vividly. I remember I couldn’t sleep, not because I was uncomfortable, but because I was excited. Once Chandler was asleep, I locked in to the silence, and felt strangely energized. Something about the reality of life sharpens in moments like this. None of the ordinary comforts are there to dull you. There’s breathing and a machine that monitors life.
And in the dark of the night, in the faint glow of medical machinery, I drew in the deep draft of Chandler’s natural life, as it was displayed before me on LED screens of an I.V. machine and a heart monitor. And all I could think of was how glad I was that he was alive, and that the essence of that life, at least in this place, was so palpable. What an amazing, unfathomable gift this life is, and yet how fragile.
Hold it well, but hold it lightly, because now we are missing our Chandler. We would give anything to turn this boat around. And together we will.