“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Last summer I took my daughter to Governors’ Island, a small former military island located in New York City. In keeping with her age, fourteen, she promptly lost her iPod. We retraced our steps, asked a few strangers and after an hour gave up. Five months later, we received a message on a social networking site asking her if she was the owner of the iPod and if there was a way it could be returned to us. We were elated, not only to receive the iPod but more importantly that someone had taken the time to find us. Some stranger that wouldn’t benefit in the slightest from this act of kindness.
So, when I read this article in the Sun Times I was profoundly moved. A soldier in the US army named William Kadar served during WWII in France. During that time, Kadar was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp where he lost close to 80 pounds. He was liberated in 1945 by General Patton’s army, but somewhere along the way he lost his duffel bag. That could have been the end of the story. After all, we are talking about a duffel bag lost in a different country during wartime 68 years ago!
But unbeknownst to Kadar, a family in France found his bag and had saved it all these years. It probably would have remained in their keeping was it not for the incredible power of message boards. There is a message board on the Internet called Texas Military Forces Museum that has one of the most active subforums for the 36th Infantry, the same division that Kadar served in during the war. Kadar’s granddaughter, who also served in the army, decided to hunt down information about her grandfather’s time in the war. She posted on this message board and much to her surprise was connected with the French family that found his duffel bag.
While an iPod being returned to the user is pretty amazing, all it really required was someone with a degree of honesty looking up the name and taking a few minutes of their time to send a message to us. For Kadar, who risked his life in the war, the return of an item lost during his time of service required people from different countries, spanning over multiple generations, taking the time to locate each other. The most amazing thing is that only on message boards would this really have been possible. Where else would people that served in the same division in the army from almost 70 years ago have a place to connect and talk? So now a granddaughter is reconnected with her family history, a family in France closes a chapter on the war, and a soldier unexpectedly finds himself holding an item lost a lifetime ago — all because a place exists where small niche communities of people can connect.
That is the power of forums.