As the world let out a collective sigh of relief that Caleb Jacoby, the 16-year-old missing since Monday, was found safe and sound in New York, there are those, who, incredibly, are asking why Caleb, of all missing kids, deserved so much attention. There are an astonishing 2300 people who go missing EVERY DAY in the United States, the majority of which are children. Lord knows what the statistics may be worldwide.
Certainly any child who goes missing deserves the attention of the world or at least the community from whence he came. I’d like to think most missing kids do, in fact, get the attention of their respective communities.
Sometimes missing children cases do become global news. The reality is that people only have so much bandwidth for how much pain they can handle, and too many of these cases do not achieve the attention they deserve and require.
Remember the missing children on milk cartons? That campaign created incredible awareness long before the words ‘social’ and ‘media’ were ever purposely put together. But why should one milk carton child get picked over another for more publicity? Is it fair?
See, the thing is that it’s not about fair. There’s nobody in charge of doling out ‘equal parts attention.’ It’s about community. If a child in your neighborhood went missing, are you going to tell me you wouldn’t feel any different about him than about a child you never heard of from a town you’d never been to?
We’re a species that thrives on community. We seek it in all aspects of our lives: fraternities, colleagues, alumni, teammates; all these make up the various communities to which we belong. I’d like to propose that it is the idea of ‘community’ that contributed to making Caleb’s disappearance different. The massive outpouring of support for the search for Caleb was driven by two communities that are connected to him.
The first is the Jewish community – the global Jewish community. The Jewish world, especially the affiliated Jewish world, is a community and NOT just in name; its people the world over are truly much more connected than your average, random, scattered-across-the-world human beings. ‘Jewish Geography’ is one of the first games Jews typically play upon meeting – and it is rare not to ‘win.’ With such a tight global community, is it any wonder that there should be a more emotional reaction to something happening to one of its own?
What about beyond the Jewish community? Besides the massive noise that was already being made, the fact that Caleb’s father is a well-known journalist for the Boston Globe makes a difference as well; but not for the reason you think. It’s not about ‘fame’ – it’s that this is a child of someone you ‘know.’ Or at least you feel like you know him.
And let’s face it: if the child of a friend or even just of someone you know casually goes missing, are you not going to be more upset, more emotionally connected, than if it were a child of a family you’d never heard of?
It’s human nature. It’s what we do. We care. A lot. We cannot possibly shed enough tears for all of the missing children who deserve them. But our hearts zone in on the ones we are closest to. Through our specifically targeted emotional energies, we shed tears for ALL of them.
May no other parent ever experience this trauma and may all of our children remain safe, protected and loved.