One night during my junior year at a conservative Christian college, I was talked into participating in an evangelical effort. Every Friday night, the college would transport students to downtown Columbus and set them loose to attack people with the gospel. I never thought this a particularly good idea, but I still found myself accepting an invitation to join, mostly because I felt unspiritual on a pious campus and worried that others might see me the same way. Hypocrisy, after all, is at the root of many a bad idea. The philosophy driving these evangelical outings was that you had to get someone lost before they could be saved. So we Abercrombie and Fitch clad children played Virgil to the Dantes of urban Ohio. Unfortunately for us, our Dantes all had places to be and were not persuaded to visit our infernos.
The language of lost and found was prominent in my religious upbringing. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound/That saved a wretch like me/I once was lost but now am found/Was blind, but now, I see. It’s no wonder that these terms are common in Christian culture. What could be better descriptions of one’s spiritual state? Lost. It’s a terrible word and a terrible feeling, whether one is searching for a lost wedding ring or for direction in life. It conveys disorientation and sorrow, while the word “found” suggests a return to order and harmony, the righting of wrongs.
Some of my other experiences with lost and found are also related to the church. I have been prone to losing my jackets as soon as the weather grows warm. I never forgot my coats at work or in class, only at church, leaving me to rifle through the church’s lost and found the next week. Anyone who has ever searched through a lost and found bin knows that they tend to contain rubbish. A ragged red mitten without its mate, a smelly hoodie, or a dog-earred paperback. If the items are not homely enough on their own merit, their abandonment renders them untouchable and despised. However, when you are looking for your one of your own belongings, the lost and found bin becomes a box of hope. If only my leather jacket is still here. If the journey from “lost” to “found” is characterized by sorrow and fear, it also characterized by hope.
Looking at literature, the theme of lost and found is prominent. In Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained and Homer’s The Odyssey, rightful order is lost and then regained. In the comedies of Shakespeare, it is love that is lost and found. Claudio and Hero are reunited in Much Ado About Nothing after deception nearly destroys their relationship. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Helena finally acquires her beloved Demetrius. However, not all things ought to be found. In Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a family discusses an escaped murderer prior to a road trip only to encounter that murderer following a car accident. Like with the lost and found bin, there is no guarantee that findings will always be pleasant.
I hope that you will be pleased with what you find here in our ninth issue of Halfway Down the Stairs. I would like to thank the writers and my fellow editors for their contributions to this issue, and most of all, I would like to thank you for reading.
— Stacy Wennstrom, Senior Nonfiction Editor
© 2009, Stacy Wennstrom