To a child, in their young and safe world, few losses would hurt so much as a bike missing and few injustices as hard to understand as someone stealing it from your yard, your personal playground.
Recently, we woke up to such news. The only evidence to be found was a broken handlebar light crushed in the driveway.
This event turned into a long, meaningful conversation and the decision to post a sign in our driveway, hoping to meet the notice of the one responsible and have a chance to offer forgiveness. We discussed why someone might do this if they were sad, angry, hungry, poor, happy, facing peer pressure or feeling unloved. You can read the full discussion I had with the kids on emotions and empathy here. I was so thankful that my boys chose to forgive and put a small sign in our yard that read “To whoever took our Bike, We are praying for you. This isn’t the life God has for you. God will forgive you and we will too. – The Loves”
I am still astounded by their answers and their ability to consider the conditions of others. Isn’t that what’s needed for us to really see those around us and empathize with them? I didn’t imagine I could have felt thankful for a bike getting stolen, but started to feel that in our discussion.
Updated ending to this story, and the best part. What I didn’t say in my initial post that a few days after putting up the sign, I was having a rather discouraging day and was in the midst of feeling like my solitary voice could hardly make even the smallest impact in this often bleak world. And then… a news reporter knocked on my door. She had passed the sign and wanted to know the story behind it. That week thousands read or watched it on our local news. It aired several times. Then the radio station called and interviewed us. Over the next few months it aired several times. A cycling group then wrote and offered to buy my son a beautiful new bike and we got to surprise him at the local bike shop. It was incredibly generous. And finally, a friend of a friend penned me a lengthy, grace-filled letter explaining how the “sign” was meant for him. He hadn’t stolen the child-sized bike but had carried a full-sized grudge. Forgiveness to him had always been something that had to be asked for or it couldn’t be forgiven. Our story had shed light on another possibility. He was going to call an estranged brother after decades and offer forgiveness. Here is an excerpt from their letter:
“There of been countless discussions with other family members on this subject and it always ends with me proclaiming that forgiveness cannot be given if it is not ask for. Even though I have always known that is not the case. My stubbornness and anger over the countless times I’ve been hurt used and manipulated at his hands, and his absolute refusal to acknowledge any of it, has always been something i just was not willing to let go. And then the good Lord decides to show me a story about a mom who teaches her eight-year-old son that it is best to forgive the person who stole his bike rather than be angry about it. And even though I have taught my own children that very same lesson, for the first time ever I got the message. Forgiveness is not about freeing the person who has wronged you, it is about freeing yourself from the pain.”
I can’t read this letter without crying. God in His mysterious ways softened my heart one more time that we can never know what impact our little acts of obedience can have. So, the responses we display before our children and what we teach in that moment can make an eternal difference. God only knows what the ripple effect will be. The Holy Spirit pours meaning into the same words read by many for the one who is ready to receive it. I don’t think the kids will ever forget the outcome and will retell it to their own children someday – teaching yet another generation that forgiveness is available even to those who have not asked for it.
You can See Part I of this Post Here: To Whoever took Our Bike: We are Praying for You