Choosing not to live in fear.
In a sad turn of events, the search for a missing 10-year-old girl in Colorado became a murder investigation late last week after the body of fifth-grader Jessica Ridgeway was discovered in a suburban Denver park.
While unfortunately, children come up missing throughout the United States every day, the disappearance of Jessica caught the attention of national media.
The youngster was last seen beginning a short walk from her home to an elementary school on the morning of Oct. 5. According to The Associated Press, the girl’s backpack was found on a sidewalk in Superior, Colo., on Oct. 7, some six miles northwest of her Westminster, Colo., home. On Wednesday, authorities discovered a body in Arvada, about seven miles west of Jessica’s home. They announced the body was Jessica’s on Friday.
As one would expect, authorities are pulling out all the stops in an effort to find the predator that abducted and killed the child. Registered sex offenders in the area were being interviewed. More than 500 homes and over 1,000 vehicles were searched. In addition, more than 1,500 tips from the public are still being sifted through.
There has been speculation that the killer might have known Jessica. That notion was fueled by the FBI’s request that residents report any suspicious activity by people they know.
“We want you to look for changes of habits, patterns, peculiar absences of those around you and report it to law enforcement,” said Jim Yacone, FBI special agent in charge in Denver, in an AP story.
Vigilance on the part of parents regarding their children has increased. A mother with a 16-year-old son and daughters ages 13 and 11, said she and her neighbors are ensuring that children are monitored by trusted adults as they walk to school or the bus stop.
To this point, it would seem today’s column is solely about a tragedy almost two-and-a-half states away. While law enforcement suspects that the individual who carried out this crime likely lives near the girl’s home, that theory is not carved in stone. The FBI has said it has not ruled out that the search for the suspect could be national.
While most parents and grandparents reading these words will dismiss the notion that the perpetrator of this crime might find his way into northeast Missouri, for at least a few that notion will plant a seed of fear.
We find ourselves living in a world with something seemingly deserving of fear around every corner. I happened upon a survey that reported nine out of 10 people say the world is a less safe place than when they were growing up. Another poll found that four in 10 people felt unsafe taking a walk alone at night within a half-mile of their home.
Only a bold few dare say their life is absent of fear.
“Why should I fear? I am on a royal mission. I am in the service of the King of kings,” wrote missionary Mary Slessor.
But truth be told, aside from those with faith enough to move mountains, the rest of us live or work in fear to some degree or another. How we deal with our fear is the key.
Where fear is allowed to prevail, control of one’s life is lost. Those who look their fear in the eye, yet choose not to be afraid have passed the final test of maturity.
One Colorado mother, whose three boys attend Jessica’s school, acknowledges that while it’s been a challenge not giving into fear in light of what’s happened, she refuses to surrender to it.
“I’m trying not to live in fear, because ultimately that’s when the crazies win,” she said.