Today’s message is from Bob, who was a prodigal who returned home and was remarried to me for an additional 23 years before the Lord took him home to Heaven. Bob wrote 19 books from the prodigal’s perspective for more than two decades after our divorce and remarriage. – Charlyne
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4
There came a knock at our front door. Standing there was a man about 35 years old. He appeared not to have bathed nor shaven for several days. He carried a tattered suitcase and a dirty bedroll. On his face, he wore a smile.
“Mr. Steinkamp, I thought you might want these things, so I brought them to you,” he said. That peaceful smile never varied. I immediately recognized the loose items in his hand. Ten days ago, Charlyne hurriedly stopped at the dry cleaners to pick up our bedspread. While unlocking the car, she made the mistake of placing her wallet on top of the car, and she drove away with it still there. Despite our immediate and repeated attempts to retrace her route home, the wallet couldn’t be located.
Although the missing credit cards had been canceled and our budget adjusted to compensate for the few dollars in cash that had been lost, our family prayed and remained hopeful for the return of the wallet.
I invited the stranger standing at our doorway inside. Although grateful for the return of the few items, I was curious about the circumstances surrounding them being found. Perhaps more so, I was curious about what made him tick, this man who some might call a bum. How could he have anything to smile about? After all, just viewing the items he had found, he had to know that we had many more possessions than he. Why didn’t he just keep Charlyne’s possessions and continue on his way?
Michael accepted a cool drink and sat down in our living room. Everything he owned in the world, I soon learned, was at his side. Charlyne was summoned back from a neighbor’s house. No, I don’t think he came to our home in search of a reward. Money didn’t matter to this man. There had to be another motivation.
Michael reported that he had been walking north along I-95, more than 15 miles from our home. He spotted a credit card in the grass at the side of the road. Looking about, he located the other items. He added that he had searched the area for more items, with negative results.
“I wanted to call the police and turn the things over to them, but they would be suspicious of me. I don’t have an address. They would have me tell the story five times over, and if I didn’t say the same thing every time, I would probably be arrested,” he related. Michael continued to express his concern at walking with the items in his pocket. “If I had been stopped, no one would believe I was on my way to find you to return everything I found.”
No, I don’t think a con man took me in. Con men don’t try to walk away from a door after doing a good deed. I probably know enough about people to discern a real person from a synthetic one. Our new friend, Michael, was for real.
Although wanting to leave, Michael was encouraged to share his story. Slowly the pieces came together. He was from Columbus, Ohio. Unable to find work there, he hitchhiked eight days to reach Fort Lauderdale. Like many others, he had heard reports about the warm climate that created more employment than could be found in Ohio.
After his arrival three days ago, he could not find a job and spent the last two nights sleeping outside a full Fort Lauderdale rescue mission. On his way south, a man involved in the heavy equipment industry in a community a couple hundred miles north of us had given him a ride, along with an offer for employment assistance if he didn’t find a job in Fort Lauderdale. Michael was hitchhiking back north to that opportunity when he found the wallet’s contents.
Despite his insistence that it wasn’t necessary, we found a way to thank Michael for his kindness. A bus ticket was purchased for him to the community where he felt he could find employment. Since the Greyhound agent reported that the last bus was scheduled to leave in fifteen minutes, there wasn’t time to have him stay for the ham dinner that I had prepared for our family. (Aren’t recuperating husbands expected to do things like that sometimes?) Charlyne and Lori quickly prepared a big bag of food for Michael to carry on his way.
While he and I were alone in the car for the trip to the Greyhound station, there was more opportunity to understand this unusual man. “Did you notice how beautiful the moon is tonight?” he inquired. Until then, I didn’t even know that the moon our God had created had come out. After looking up, I understood its beauty, but I still couldn’t understand how a man with nothing could be so peaceful. “It’s a beautiful night to travel. I’m going to enjoy riding on the bus.” Michael added. He had all the enthusiasm expected if a ride on a jet plane was being provided.
No, Michael wasn’t crazy, nor was he lacking in intelligence. His sparkling, clear eyes and articulate speech gave no indication of drug or alcohol abuse. His manners, especially in front of Charlyne, indicated proper respect for others, although his answers to me of “yes, sir” and “no, sir” did make me feel kind of old.
Why did this stranger even bother making an effort? He provided the answer in his own words. “If I had a wallet and lost it, I would appreciate someone returning it to me.” That’s the key – showing love in the same manner as we would receive love.
For most of us, it’s easy to show love by being patient and kind when we know that the same type of love will be returned to us, perhaps increased. If I take the time to write Charlyne a short note of love today, I know that she will not only appreciate but return my love. Maybe she won’t make me fix dinner tonight. I am just kidding because I do enjoy starting dinners for our family. The smile she offers when a note is being read is repayment enough.
I must confess that my expressions of love are often not “patient and kind.” In fact, sometimes, my attitudes and actions could more honestly be described as “impatient and cruel.”
My purpose in writing is twofold. Of course, I want to encourage you, especially during the holiday season, that you can be loved, even if you’re lonely. The greater purpose is to fine-tune my own lovability.
As my ability to love and to recognize and accept the love offered to me is developed, I become a better man. First to myself, then to my Lord, and finally to others, starting in our own home. I invite you to take that journey of discovery with me. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to speak to you regarding love. As we learn better how to love, we love Him more, and that’s why we were created. A book won’t make us perfect, but perhaps it will help a bit in the perfection process.
Recently I heard a man comment that if we could all take our problems, hang them on a clothesline, and then each select back one bundle of problems, we would all run to reclaim our own. Even when they look overwhelming, we can still handle our own issues with our Lord’s help.
Please allow yourself time for things to get better. In the meantime, for a few minutes today, if that’s all that’s possible, try not being lonely, even if you’re alone. Our Lord will be with you. He, who is love, is patient and kind.
Because He lives,
Note: This was an excerpt from Bob’s book, The Twelve Days of…Thoughts on being alone, yet loved, during the holidays. You can purchase this book when you visit here.