Covid-19 is the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine’s Day and countless precious family events this past year. But this Easter has been salvaged by a tough little guy called Jude who has experienced nothing short of a modern miracle.
Jude’s experience is a reminder of hope and courage and a caring community and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.
We are all mentally and physically weary from isolation, stress, loneliness, loss, and frustration caused by the pandemic and efforts to combat it. Some of this has turned to outright anger.
Good news has been as scarce as hens’ teeth. The prophesized light at the end of the tunnel---for months now our symbol of hope---currently looks more and more like a runaway train.
Then, this week before Easter, along comes three-year-old Jude Leyton, who disappeared from his grandfather’s fishing resort in South Frontenac, north of Kingston. We who live in this neck of the woods know it has been a cold spring and the area is rocky and heavily wooded and we feared the worst.
Like a lot of others, I immediately thought of our own great grandkids—one of whom is a little guy called Boyd. He’s Jude’s age and size and equally innocent and inquisitive about the world around him. Picture him lost and alone among animal predators in the dark and rain and cold in the middle of the night. For three nights, that is. And weep with fear about the odds against him.
Many of us broke down and cried worrying about Jude. And we cried again with joy when news broke that he had been found alive and well.
As someone who has spent most of her working career connected to the news business, I was surprised that media coverage of Jude’s story has been fairly limited, given public interest in this kind of story. This is obviously a result of media obsession with the pandemic, the remoteness of the situation, and the fact that today’s news gathering agencies are struggling and have limited resources.
I was around in the day at The Toronto Star when the editors would have dispatched their famous flying squad to cover the search and rescue of a missing kid story like this. Searchers would have been hounded by a mob of TV cameras and competing reporters following every lead and reporting every rumour.
At the time of writing this blog there has been only one photo in public circulation---the rescuers carrying the tot to safety---and video of an ambulance reportedly taking him to Kingston General Hospital to be checked out.
Because of my background, I am torn on how this story has been reported.
It is tempting to get caught up in American-style media coverage. We’re used to everyone from movie stars to politicians and police chiefs baring their souls in front of the cameras—Megan and Harry being the latest lambs to the slaughter to feed public appetite for gossip.
When did we start thinking that we have a right to explore the nooks and crannies of personal lives?
Because I became so emotionally wrapped up in Jude’s story, I admit that I thirst for more information about him and his family. Where do they live? (They were visiting the child’s grandfather apparently.) Had he wandered off before? What were his first words to his family? What do they all look like?
Oh, please show us a picture of him being reunited with his family. Safe in his own little bed. Does he have a dog? Brothers and sisters who missed him?
But then there’s me as a grandparent and I say thank God this family got the privacy they wanted and needed after such an ordeal. Why should they be asked to bare their souls and describe emotions and experiences that are often indescribable.
I’ve known reporters over the years who would be bound to ask of Jude’s parents: “Do you think he was running away from something? Who do you blame for this?” And my guess is that the family would be too polite to tell the media to go to hell and get off their property!
On balance, I hope the family resists offers to expose themselves and Jude to the media, especially right now. Jude and his family need time to recover. Perhaps sometime in future they will sit down with a trusted news outlet or writer and share thoughts and lessons learned that may be of help to other parents.
The bottom line is that this dear little kid is safely home. The community quickly rallied to help. First responders did their job with great competence, skill and determination.
This is a story with a happy ending. So be it. We don’t need to know any more---nor do we have a right to do so.
Jude’s mother released a statement on social media thanking those who helped in the rescue and the family must be grateful for the flood of love and good wishes she received in response.
OPP Constable Scott McNames, who was part of the search teams and the first to spot Jude’s bright blue little coat as he lay sleeping near a beaver pond in deep brush, carried the boy home to his parents.
“It was definitely looking bleak, there’s no doubt about that” he said of the search efforts. “But you don’t lose hope---you just can’t give up.”
And that, my friends, is a message for all us this Easter and in the months ahead. We can’t lose hope and we must not give up.