Three Lessons from a Woman in a Search Party… Looking for Herself


Know any teens or twenty-somethings who can’t find themselves? Maybe you can lead the search party for them. Look past the surface and get to know them well. Who knows what surprises might be found.

You may find this story hard to believe. I just read a report this month that a missing woman on vacation in Iceland managed to unwittingly join a search party looking for herself. You do realize…truth is stranger than fiction.

The Toronto Sun reported that a tourist group traveling by bus made a pit stop in route to the volcanic Eldgja Canyon park. The lady went inside a rest stop to freshen up and change clothes. When she returned, “her bus mates didn’t recognize her.”

Word spread among the group that a passenger was missing, and the woman didn’t recognize the description of herself. Next thing you know, a fifty-person search party was canvassing the area, in addition to the coast guard. At about 3:00 am, someone finally recognized the missing woman was actually in the “hunt,” but just in different clothes and with some make up on. Brilliantly, the search was called off.

Hmmm. Whether fact or fiction, there’s got to be some life lessons in this story. I actually believe it serves as a relevant analogy for those of us who work with students today. Permit me…

1. The woman was searching for herself and didn’t even know it.

In a day full of information, stimulation and options—many young adults believe they’ve arrived at the “conclusion;” they’re convinced they have the answers. After all, they’ve watched YouTube and read Wikipedia. Our generation didn’t have the technology kids do today, but we did the same thing. Students need to experiment and find themselves, but sometimes, they aren’t even aware they are looking.

2. Others around her didn’t recognize her when she made cosmetic changes.

Obviously, the tourists didn’t know each other well. When the women changed clothes and make up, no one knew who she was. In so many ways, our superficial world does the same with our students. They make cosmetic changes and we don’t know them well enough to see past it. We lose them in the crowd. We fail to recognize their unique traits and inward personality. The more superficial we are, the more artificial we become.

3. While losing herself in service, she was actually found.

Isn’t it ironic and almost coincidental that the answer came as she joined a group she assumed was about someone else? She became consumed with serving in a search party she believed was about someone else. So often, our solutions in life don’t come when we get caught up in ourselves. They come naturally in a quite opposite fashion—when we are serving something outside of ourselves.

In numerous ways, this is a picture of the maturation process:

  • Mature young adults recognize they are lost and must find themselves.
  • Mature young adults grow beyond cosmetic changes and modifications.
  • Mature young adults struggle through mistaken identity and discover truth.
  • Mature young adults find their answers when helping others find theirs.

Know any teens or twenty-somethings who can’t find themselves? Maybe you can lead the search party for them. Look past the surface and get to know them well. Who knows what surprises might be found.

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