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Searching for Hope 

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It’s hard to know where to begin when writing about Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped from her Salt Lake City home in the early morning hours of June 5. I don’t know Elizabeth Smart or her parents, yet I am related to them.

The abduction of the 14-year-old has struck a nerve. Not just in this community, but nationally. The notion that she was not safe in her own house, in her own bedroom, is shocking to everyone, not just distant relatives. Our heart goes out to Elizabeth and her family. Still, we cannot know the pain now suffered by her parents, Edward and Lois Smart. We want to help them—and the community has turned out in large numbers to do just that, although at this writing, Elizabeth’s disappearance remains a mystery.

At the root of her abduction is an ugliness that we don’t understand. What is it, we have to wonder, that would drive anyone to commit this kind of transgression against someone as innocent as a 14-year-old girl?

Elizabeth Smart and her peers can be seen as our future. If we can’t nurture and protect them, then what are we coming to? That’s simplistic, of course, because most of us are incapable of harming others. Nonetheless, Elizabeth Smart does not stand alone—even in Utah—as the victim of this kind of coldhearted crime. In the end, we’re all vulnerable to it—a fact that will continue to haunt us. And while it has brought us together now, it can’t help but stunt future warmth and openness to strangers and even other members of our community.

But there must be hope. Surely, hope was borne on the hearts of all those people who volunteered to search for Elizabeth. Hope was evident in the eyes of those who lit candles at a vigil for Elizabeth at Liberty Park. Hope was seen in the pained faces of Edward and Lois Smart who prayed that God could somehow help the poor, twisted soul who kidnapped their daughter.

That kind of hope is a tough sell. It’s the kind that you don’t usually see when people are absorbed in everyday life. But it is very real—it’s the kind of hope that we can only know from reaching deep within ourselves at those times when reaching deeply is all we can do. We’d like to believe that there is hope for Elizabeth Smart. We want to believe that she will return to Edward and Lois. In the end, however, the real hope for us may be that we can come together in warmth and understanding as people, as a community, and as members of the same family—the family of man.

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