There are a lot of things about this time of year that make me smile. The realization that the cold (well, the REALLY cold) weather is behind us, the extended daylight under which we can all play and the beginning of baseball season are all uplifting.

My oldest son had baseball games over the weekend. All players are required to arrive at the field an hour before game time, so my husband volunteered to take our son so we wouldn’t need to interrupt our toddler’s nap. That meant I was assigned carting our two younger kids, our four camping chairs, the diaper bag, the snack cooler and the team banner. I didn’t really think through how lopsided that agreement was until I was driving to the park.

As we took the Interstate to the game, I drove under one of those electronic message boards and noticed an Amber Alert had been issued. I imagine many people who drove under the sign felt my emotions of shock and sadness as my mind contemplated what could have happened. Part of me wanted to immediately pull the van over to the shoulder and give my kids an extra hug and kiss.

We named our youngest Jaycee Lee after my maternal grandmother and my dad (his middle name is Lee). My grandmother’s name was Geraldine, or Jerry for short, and I couldn’t bring myself to brand my daughter with any derivative of those names. But at the same time, I wanted part of my grandmother to live on through my baby. I found the abbreviation “JC” on a website while searching for baby names with special meanings. When I saw “JC” online and read about how many linked the abbreviation to “Jesus Christ,” I knew that would be a good way to honor the woman who was instrumental in the formation of my faith.

You can imagine my surprise when I learned about the story of Jaycee Lee Dugard less than a year after my daughter was born. The girl with the same first and middle names as my youngest is a constant reminder of how innocence is stolen every day in our world. Dugard was abducted on June 10, 1991, as she hurried to catch a school bus. Her step-father witnessed the nightmare unfold. Eighteen years later, Jaycee resurfaced with two children of her own. Their father was Jaycee’s abductor.

I cannot fathom how I would react if my children were taken from me. I don’t know how parents of kidnapped children can physically and mentally go on, how marriages can possibly survive after such trauma or how impacted siblings and friends of the victimized can ever fully trust again. I pray that neither I nor anyone I know ever experiences what that is like.

What I do know is that it literally takes seconds to forever change the way we view our world and live our lives. I was happy to learn that the Amber Alert I saw that sunny morning on our trip to the ball field was eventually called off because the missing child was found.

Realizing that not every story has a happy ending, I continue to hold my children tight and keep an eye out for them as they learn how to navigate on their own.

Heidi Woodard is married with three children. She works full-time. Read her Thursdays on

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