Last week, the online Jewish world was abuzz with the disappearance of a teen from Boston. Posters were shared, missing person info passed along, people were asked to pray and keep an eye out. Thank G-d, the child was found and was returned to his family. Postfactum, an article asking to respect the family's privacy appeared. The main point was that it is no longer our business what happened and how the parents will deal with the situation. I agree with this point; going further into this story would just feed unhealthy voyeurism. But there is one piece of this story that we have to make our business.
For three days, the story dominated my Facebook feed. Thousands of people were involved. The publicity that the story received, undoubtedly helped find the boy. But the publicity has a flip side.
Somewhere, in someone's house, a teen is sitting in front of a screen, following this piece of news. He or she is looking closely at the amount of attention that the story generated. That teen is thinking of running away from home. He is trying to decide whether to do it, or not. And this is where the publicity piece falls in: nobody notices me now, wouldn't it be great if my face was all over Facebook? Would MY parents care to search for me? Would they mount a campaign of such proportions? And the most important piece of all: what will happen when I come back home ( eventually, in some hazy future, all grizzled from my seeing the world)?
For that teen, the most important piece of the story is not how Boston family reunited with their son, but how HIS OWN family would react to his disappearance. Right now, that is the missing piece.
It is easy to say, oh, my child would never do that, run away from home, break my heart, be so thoughtless. Sure, we have our squabbles, but it's not that bad. Especially if you as a parent think that it is not so bad, now is the ripe time to talk to your teen. Tell him what would happen if he decides ever to run away. Tell him that you would be very sad. Tell him that you will move mountains searching for him. Tell him that you will hug him tight when you find him. And tell him that his sorry behind will be grounded in an unimaginable way afterward.
Make this story your business.