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Faith In My Heart

A little more than a week ago, a couple of days before Halloween, my family was given a legitimate scare. Not the kind when your wife sneaks up quietly behind you and screams or even the type that occurs when you come home and find some of your doors are unlocked (because you left them unlocked). This was nothing of the sort.

It was a Friday afternoon and my wife, father-in-law and I went to pick my daughter up from her school where she was attending a pre-Halloween dance party. We took two cars as I was staying behind to set up with a bunch of other dads for a Fall Festival happening the next day.

When I arrived at the school one of my baby's classmates told me that she was up front near the stage. My daughter is good for seeing me before I see her so I edged my way through the three to four foot high crowd and saw no one who resembled my her.

I didn't think much of it. She's not one for people being too close to her. She was probably off in a corner somewhere bossing one of her friends around playing out some imaginary scenario. But after checking all the corners there was no sign of her.

My father-in-law was fine because I told him all was fine. I left the gymnasium --- the gymnasium whose unattended doors I had walked through several minutes earlier, and began to traverse the school hallways. My first thought landed me at my first stop, my daughter's art teacher's classroom. The teacher, a relatively new mom herself, was there, but my daughter was not. I calmly told her, "Okay, I'll keep looking." I paid little attention to the sudden panic that erupted across her face and heeded her request: "When you find her, please stop by and let me know."

"No problem," I told her.

I walked to my daughter's classroom all the way across the school. The door was locked and the the lights were out as were all the classrooms at that end of the school. I made my way back to the gym. By then my wife was there and she wasn't happy.

"Where is she?!" she asked me, in her tone that let me know she was beginning to move into an unpleasant space. My father-in-law was with her and beginning to reflect similar energy.

I reassured her, but honestly was less concerned with either of them and more interested in remaining calm. I know my child. I know that she absolutely refuses to do anything alone and will scream like there's no tomorrow if she isn't right with what's going on.

But it was a party with music blasting. And then there was that unattended door...

By now the principal was involved, announcements were being made over the music and teachers and administrators were being dispatched to cover all corners of the school. I went right back down the same hallway I had been before and began checking all the wings. I took deep breaths as I walked. My heart was beating no faster than it had been but it was beginning to drop down to the top part of my stomach. And then I spoke out loud into the quiet surrounding me:

"God, I WILL NOT be on the news tonight talking about my daughter."

No one heard my profession but me. Another announcement was made, this time over the school's loudspeaker asking her to come to the front office. I could hear that the music from the party was off. When I passed the front office one of the people called out to me from behind the front desk to ask had I seen her. I found the question odd since they just made the announcement, but I shook my head and again stated we'd find her. I turned to head back down toward the gym once more.

And there she was, smiling.

I bent down and hugged her as I do everyday, as if nothing was wrong, as if the worlds of at least 50 people were not about to come to a complete stop. She was fine so I was fine.

"Where were you, baby?"

"Daddy, I was drawing in a classroom with..." a classmate that she's good friends with. The two of them were there while the father of the other child began setting up the Fall Festival. They were mere steps from the party in a classroom down a hallway everyone bypassed because it was right next door to the gym. It was the dynamic from The Hangover movies right there in real life. The first time they (my daughter, her friend and his dad) were aware anything was wrong was when they heard the overhead announcement.

It was exactly as I knew it was. My stomach instantly felt better. We walked back toward the gym. Mom raced up to us, completely out of breath, and snatched our daughter up off the floor to hug the stuffing out of her. My father-in-law looked as if he had just finished knocking on Heaven's Door. Those teachers and admins began to swarm around us to figure out what happened and why. C-Y-A and general concern was behind it and I understood. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed the principal, a man I really really respect step off to read the riot act to whomever was supposed to be at that exterior gymnasium door. The music was back on and my daughter was no longer the center of attention.

One of the administrators was surprised by my calm and told me so. To which I flatly responded:

"My daughter is my heart and I can't live without my heart. I had faith - not fear that she was fine. There was no way she wasn't in this school."

"Well, I'm glad you knew," she said, clutching her bosom (and I do mean bosom).

Besides I used to do the same thing myself when I was a child. The only difference between she and I is that I got knocked upside my head for it. My daughter got hugs and a strong direction to let teachers know where she is at all times. The school's responsibility in this is, all the what-ifs that didn't happen and the goblins and sexual predators who lurk at every turn are irrelevant to the telling of this real-life tale of faith, not fear, ruling the day.

Now if I could only have this much faith in other areas of my life...

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