Lost and found and lost


Some old sayings never really get old. The idea that kids “would lose their head if it wasn’t screwed on tight” has definitely withstood the test of time. 

Running a summer camp this year, as I have done every year for the past 7 years, I must say that one thing I could set my watch by is the timely losing of items, particularly by children whose parents most emphatically urge, “keep track of your things!”

Hats come to camp to be taken off outside, despite the bearing down of the hot noon sun, and thrown on the ground – because that is the most logical place for them! Water bottles are a forgotten annoyance that become sought out like gold when thirst takes its toll. Those we might find on shelves, under desks, and of course… on the ground. 

Towels! Oh so many towels! Large, sturdy, colourful bath towels! They are among the items that are usually not labelled with a name, and even if water play only took place 10 minutes ago, no one remembers if either of those two stray towels are theirs. Did I come today with a blue striped towel? Or red polka dots? Who knows!

The most surprising misplaced items of all? Clothes! Pants, shorts, socks, underwear, shirts, even shoes! It’s true that all of these items (except perhaps the shoes) are unlikely to be labelled with the child’s name, but I still find it humorous that no one questions the sudden disappearance of their child’s favourite shirt, or stops to ask why their child only has a bathing suit left to wear after just two weeks of camp. Heads aren’t coming loose yet, but trousers sure are!

“Lost and found” is a solid, honest term. The item was lost, and it was indeed found. But if the item is never claimed by its rightful owner, is it not still lost? Perhaps it’s better to rename the “lost and found” to be the far more pessimistic yet honest “lost and found and lost”. 

Educators try. We hang items in well-travelled hallways to be seen by kids and parents. We send emails containing photos of lost items. We even hold onto items for weeks or occasionally months before donating them, in case a sudden memory of a lost beloved item surfaces. But year after year, typically at least two full size clear plastic bags get donated, each containing what must be 20-30 pounds of items lost in just 8 weeks. I suppose, in hindsight, it is a good thing for those in need. See the photo for an actual example of the unclaimed clothes and towels after only a week of running our camp! These are only the items we got around to displaying so far, and there are more items in the bin below!

While totally true, these musings are intended solely as humour and not as criticism of parents or their children. I know what it is like to have kids who lose things. All kids lose things, just as adults do. One final observation: the one thing that never goes unclaimed in the lost and found? TOYS!


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