Two nights ago, I looked for a little boy as if he were my own.
With desperation, hopelessness and urgency, I searched the streets of my local area for two-year-old Sam Trott, who walked out of his house on Tuesday morning and seemingly disappeared into thin air.
I wasn’t alone. The newspapers said there were dozens of people searching for Sam on Tuesday night. There weren’t; there were hundreds.
I arrived at the local community centre at about 7pm, after I couldn’t sit and listen to the helicopters overhead any longer. I went on my own, without a torch, without a plan, just with a desperate need to help find this little boy.
The police expressed surprise that so many people had the same idea as me. I wasn’t surprised; in fact, I’d have been surprised if fewer people had turned up. I may diss suburban Perth, but I have never been prouder of my community as I was that night. Every parent, every aunt, every uncle, every grandparent, every sibling felt Lyndal and Matt Trott’s agony, and wanted to help.
How could you not? How could you sit at home and watch telly when a tiny little boy was out on his own at night, lost and alone.
This is what happens when you become a parent – sympathy transforms overnight into profound empathy. A parent’s anguish becomes your own anguish, because it could be you.
When the three Maslin children died on MH17, we cried for them. We put ourselves in their parents’ position and cried for their three lost babies. When a friend’s stepbrother and his wife lost their baby at 39 weeks into the pregnancy, we cried for what might have been.