There it was, a beautiful brand new bicycle. It was what she really wanted. What she got, at first, was a dollhouse that was lovingly made by her father. The disappointment on her 10-year-old face was enough to convince her dad to go and sell the dollhouse and buy her that bike. There was not enough money for a bicycle, but there was enough craftsmanship and love in the dollhouse to get it.
It was not until a couple of decades later, when her father passed away unexpectedly that the full impact of her rejection of the gift of love hit her. And it hit her hard. If she could only say how sorry she was. I know that her father understood — and so did she. After all, she was only 10.
Years after her father’s passing, she was at an estate sale and there it was. It was her dollhouse. It had her father’s name on the bottom. It had been bought by a couple who wanted their granddaughters to have something to play with when she visited. It was a little worse for wear, but it was still as solid as when her father crafted it for his 10-year-old daughter. She bought it — back. Redemption!
If one lives long enough, there will be moments like this. I know of a few people who have similar stories of lost family treasures that have suddenly and unexpectedly popped up and were met with opportunity to regain what was lost.
The stories how things are lost are as varied as the items. They do, however, share the common threads of lack of appreciation or deception. They also share an understanding on the part of the offender that a mistake had been made. Sometimes it is realized immediately (those tend to be the deception stories) and sometimes it takes months or years (those tend to be the lack of appreciation stories). The resolution comes when realized offense meets an opportunity to make things right.
One of my favorite redemption stories (in the sense of buying something back) happened over 50 years ago in Wisconsin. There was a family who immigrated from Europe to central Wisconsin and bought some land on which to farm. What they did not know (but the seller probably did) was that the land was sandy and not good for crops. What they did have was a picturesque creek full of trout and walleye. They built cabins and a rustic lodge and survived through the depression. They hosted gangsters and presidents (not at the same time!).
In the early 1960s, there was a group of churches looking for a camp. They learned of this property and approached the family about selling it. Once they learned that it would be used as a youth camp, they agreed on an attractive price. It was still more than the group had. So it was decided to collect donations and have a fundraising auction at the property with the blessing of those selling it.
The woman who owned the resort donated her grand piano. Far and away the most valuable item. She attended the auction and outbid everyone. Then she donated her piano to the camp. Did you get that? She donated the piano to raise money to buy her property. Bought the piano for more than it was worth. Then gave it to the camp — again. This redemption story did not take much time to execute. However, the story of how the piano came to be at that place and then donated — twice — still resonates with all the children who attend that camp. The story is told to all of them so that they know.
It teaches them gratitude, generosity and responsibility. But they must be told the story — over and over, and generation to generation. Redemption stories are built from love and generosity. Most of the time they are triggered by an event that represents loss of some sort — but not always. They are consummated when opportunity meets more love and generosity. When they are honored and told they still teach us, and they last for generations.
Sean Niestrath lives and ministers in Madisonville. You may contact him via email at email@example.com.