A miracle in bubble-gum pink
Secrets of the rodeo's lost & found: There's magic among those smells
It only took two minutes for my 3-year-old daughter to lose her favorite pink jacket at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Surrounded by throngs of people, I had no hope of us ever finding that sweet little hoodie again. But the insistence of a preschooler is a very powerful thing.
After asking around for the lost and found office, we were directed to Room 102 in Reliant Center. The room was packed with distraught people hoping to find cameras, jewelry, iPods and wallets. As we waited in line, I watched one woman burst into tears and then launch into a church-worthy praise session after finding her wallet — money and credit cards untouched.
When it was our turn, my daughter earnestly told a sad tale of losing her jacket and said, “Could you peeese see if you can find for me?”
Sure enough, it was hanging neatly on a rolling rack, along with other coats, sweaters and jackets. It was a little worse for the wear, but she was thrilled and doled out enthusiastic hugs to every member of the Directions and Assistance Committee.
It got me thinking. This is a magical place.
Sure, the smell of livestock still floats in the air along with the ironic scent of barbecue, but here, in Room 102, little miracles happen every day. Reunions with wallets, digital cameras and yes, even children are commonplace, but perhaps the greatest discovery is how many people happily do the right thing.
The green-vested volunteers help parents find children; pictures in cameras are returned to the hands that took them. And, really, who else gets tears of thanks and great big hugs during their volunteer shift at the rodeo?
Commonly lost items include cell phones, cameras, jackets and backpacks, although committee member Richard Clement has certainly seen some stranger items turned in over the past 16 years he has volunteered there. Prosthetics, false teeth and even a wheelchair have made their way to the office. It’s the lost children, however that really make working in the room important.
“We had a 1-year-old baby in a stroller brought to us because the mother got on a ride, got off and just walked away. That was kind of unbelievable,” Clement said. “But just today we had a little boy who was deaf that we found and were able to quickly reunite with his mother.”
When a child is reported missing, the team assembles like a pack of superheroes and starts a search. Many times, Clement says, kids get lost because parents assume the child is with the other parent.
“When that happens, we tell the kids the parents are the ones lost, not the kids,” he said. Room 102 is a safe haven for children up to 12-years-old. Many times volunteers are there with lost children until after midnight.
Pessimists take note. Honesty is a well-observed policy at the rodeo. “Basically people are honest and want to do the right thing,” Clement said. “We had a gentlemen from South America here and he had lost an envelope with $5,000 in it. Sure enough, it was here with all the money.”
Unclaimed wallets are mailed to the owners when the rodeo is over and items such as jewelry, jackets and strollers are taken to the HLSR offices where certain items are donated to charity. For those who have lost items, the committee has official forms and system to keep track.
With the rodeo coming to a close, The Lost Articles and Lost Children headquarters is sure to busy with people hoping for a miracle.
Ours just happened to come in the shape of a bubble-gum pink jacket.