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one to one: the abandoned tricycle

by Keith Burden, Executive Secretary, National Association of Free Will Baptists

She was four years old. I stood in the yard watching my daughter ride her tricycle on the sidewalk in front of our house . . . something we never let her do unsupervised. I stepped inside to take a phone call; I was gone less than two minutes. When I returned, the tricycle sat abandoned in the driveway. My little girl was gone.

At first, I thought she had slipped into the house when I wasn’t looking. I quickly checked each room and ruled out that possibility. An uneasy feeling swept over me as I returned to the front yard. My wife joined the search. Together we rushed up and down the sidewalk calling out her name, but she didn’t answer.

We went house to house asking our neighbors if they had seen her. No one had. Sensing our deep concern, some of them began to help us look. My heart pounded wildly as I ran through the neighborhood. I was on the verge of panic. How could a little girl disappear into thin air?

I tried to stay calm, but fear wrapped its icy fingers around me as a frightening image flashed through my mind. Only a few weeks earlier a four-year-old girl in our community had been snatched from her front yard. Her name was Heather. She bore a striking resemblance to our daughter. Police discovered her lifeless body in an orchard on the outskirts of the city three days later. My anxiety heightened.

Adjacent to our yard was a large city park. As I stood there surveying the landscape, something caught my eye. Several hundred yards away I saw a child playing on a swing set. I bolted for the park like a sprinter out of the starting blocks. An overwhelming sense of relief swept over me when I realized the child was my daughter.

My first impulse was to scold her. Instead, I swept her up in my arms and held her tightly while shedding tears of joy. As I carried her home I told her I loved her, and I never wanted her to wander off again.

I learned that day that nothing becomes a priority until it becomes personal. I was aware that children were abducted and harmed every day, but their plight took on a whole new meaning when my daughter was missing.

I was also reminded that concern for the lost is communicated by actions more than words. We didn’t have to tell our neighbors we were worried about our daughter’s disappearance. They could see it in our faces and hear it in our voices.

I still remember how it felt to embrace my little girl that day. May we never forget that God uses us to wrap His arms around a lost world . . . one person at a time.


©2005 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists