Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Kindness of a Stranger

It happened in a gas station restroom in Dunseith, North Dakota. 

In August of 1978, we’d been married for ten months and were driving from Manitoba to Texas to resume another school year. The Dunseith restroom offered those flat, dry soap leaves you may remember. The soap got caught under my wedding rings, so I took the rings off and laid them on a shelf above the sink. When I turned around to grab a towel, someone was knocking on the door, so I quickly dried my hands and left the washroom. Had no one been knocking, I’d have turned around again and seen my rings. A teenage girl went in as I left. 

I returned to the car and waited for Jon to finish filling the tank. Before he even climbed back into the car, I noticed my unadorned hand and ran back inside. The washroom was occupied, and I waited for the person to come out. But it wasn’t the same person, and this one had not seen any rings. The gas station attendant hadn’t either. The girl had vanished. We gave the manager (and the police) our name and address in case some honest stranger turned in the rings. Eventually, we needed to carry on our journey. 

I cried for a month. I felt guilty and irresponsible, but I also believed nothing was too hard for God and begged him to convict the stranger who had my rings. I prayed they’d feel so guilty they’d turn them in. 

The following Valentine’s Day, Jon bought me a small, plain wedding ring, discounted because someone else had purchased the matching engagement ring. Years later, after my father passed away, Mom divvied her rings among her daughters and I received her diamond engagement ring. I’ve managed to hang on to this replacement “set” ever since. I stopped praying for the return of my original rings a long time ago, but I would recognize them in an instant.

Nine years ago, Teresa Stanley lost hers as well. Of course she and Dave searched high and low and I’m sure many tears were shed (because Dave’s just that sort of a guy). They later sold their home to a family by the name of Stranger.

This year, the Strangers needed to do some plumbing work in preparation for selling the home again. And there, in the pipes, they found a wedding and engagement ring, still soldered together but black with grime.

Aimee Stranger cleaned the ring enough to discover the diamonds still intact and knew she must do something. She first contacted her realtor in order to contact Dave, who verified the ring was Teresa’s. Aimee then took it to a jeweler who sent it away for cleaning. Dave and their boys kept it all a secret until the ring arrived last week. 

Then, they were ready. They gave Teresa the package, videoed her priceless reaction, and uploaded the video to Facebook. Last time I checked, there were 60 comments from friends—many in tears, all celebrating with her and praising the kindness of the Strangers who were, for all practical purposes, strangers to Dave and Teresa.

Does this renew my hope that I might still be reunited with my rings? Not really. And that’s okay; I’ve experienced enough significant losses in the intervening years to help put it into perspective. But it sure reminds me of a story Jesus told about a lost coin in Luke chapter 15—especially the part about friends and family celebrating over its reappearance and the trouble and expense someone else went to in order to see the rings returned as good as new. Read it for yourself to see who might be celebrating over you. 

And next time you find something that’s not yours, ask yourself whether you’d rather be a stranger or a Stranger.

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