So last night I’m standing at the paint counter at our local Home Depot while the clerk’s got my two cans shaking violently in the machine under the counter. I’m guessing that most Home Depot stores are set up in the same way. The paint counter sits on the open aisle spanning the width of the store way up front, just across from all the check-out registers. If you want to see all the action at a Home Depot – and who wouldn’t!?!? – then the paint counter offers a pretty good 360 degree vantage point.
Quickly bored while waiting for shaking paint cans, I started watching people. A young woman carrying a potted plant started walking in my direction from the door to the outdoor garden center. She was moving fast and looking up each aisle. “Must have lost her husband,” I thought to myself. At about the time she passed me I noticed that traffic near the store’s front door had come to some kind of halt, with a half a dozen folks just standing there after coming into the store. Then, a few orange-aproned store employees starting moving toward the exits. Three of them merged right next to me. One had a walkie-talkie and was barking instructions about a “Code Adam.” I assumed someone was seen pocketing an item and trying to walk out of the store. Stupid me.
In a matter of seconds, I figured out what a “Code Adam” is. I looked towards the garden center doorway and saw a middle-aged woman walking briskly in with a little two-year old boy in her arms and a smile on her face. The woman had a big smile on her face. At this point, the young woman with the potted flower started walking from the other direction with a look of pained relief on her face. Before mother and way-ward son were reunited, I realized what “Code Adam” was all about. The young mother held the potted plant in one arm and her son tightly in the other as she went to the register. The tears in her eyes and her grasp on that little boy spoke loudly. It was a story that ended well.
On the way home, I wondered to myself about how “Code Adam” got its name. I figured it might have something to do with the 1981 disappearance of little Adam Walsh in Miami, Florida. A quick search of the Internet confirmed my hunch. I lived in Miami when Walsh disappeared. I had been away for the weekend on a retreat with my youth group kids when Walsh went missing. I remember driving back and passing through toll booths plastered with “missing child” flyers covered with the little boy’s picture. It was all over the news. That story did not end well.
Watching that mini-drama unfold from my paint counter vantage-point really got me thinking about kids lost to the culture, what it means to be spiritually lost, and our loving Shepherd/Father. I was thinking about the story of the Prodigal Son. I was thinking about Jesus leaving the 99 to go after the one lost sheep. I was thinking about the urgency He has and the way we need to share that same sense of urgency. Everyone at Home Depot was focused on one thing for those few very long minutes last night.
Is there a lesson in there for me?