This is a story about my friend Brenda, a stolen phone, a college kid named Roger, and grace.
Last Monday, Brenda’s son, Jordon, was studying in the local junior college library. As a senior in high school, Jordon is part of the college connection. He’s a hard-working student, holding down two jobs and attending classes. As Jordon studied, his new blackberry was sitting on the table, a phone that he had bought himself with his hard-earned money. The blackberry was important to Jordan, not just because he’d worked hard to buy it but because it represented a reliable connection with his family who often relied on him to help out with family needs. You see, Jordan’s younger sister has a serious disease and he needs to be on call. So when Jordan discovered that at some point during his study time in the library his blackberry had been stolen, it was especially devastating.
That night as the family discussed the “crime,” they decided the first step would be to call the phone. Jordan called and somehow the culprits who had the phone pushed a button and didn’t realize that the phone was still on and that Jordan and his family could hear their entire conversation.
“I don’t know,” one kid said. “Should I give the phone back?”
“Whadya mean should you give it back. Of course you should. It’s not yours.”
“Yeah, I know, but no one gives me back stuff they’ve taken from me. Then again, I don’t want this to bring me bad karma.”
And so the conversation went on, the college students totally unaware of their unseen audience.
Something about that conversation touched the grace-filled corners of Brenda’s heart and she decided to establish contact with their offenders. She called and left a message.
“I want to ask you to return the phone to my son. He worked hard for that phone, earning the money with two jobs, and he needs it to stay in touch with us because his sister has a serious illness.”
And thus began a back and forth between Brenda and the phone thief. Brenda asked him his first name and the offender became someone with an identity–Roger, someone who seemed to be struggling with his action. She exercised some good old fashioned bluffing, calmly threatening to trace the phone and send the police to the house, but the threat was not needed. Because it was Brenda’s gentle appeals and grace-filled language that eventually won the thief over. Between texts and phone messages, Brenda communicated forgiveness, understanding, a smidgeon of tough love and a whole lot of grace. She asked the student to do the right thing and return the phone the next day between 11-11:30 at the college library. “I know you really are struggling with what you’ve done, I could hear it in your voice and I think you really do want to do what is right. I’ve been praying for you, that you would do the right thing.”
“Thank you for asking me respectfully,” he told Brenda, I will return the phone to the library tomorrow.”
Excuse me? Did you not just steal the phone from my son? You have no right to be treated with respect! The retort flitted through Brenda’s mind. But grace took over and instead she remained calm and expressed her gratitude that he would do the right thing.
The next morning as the “thief” was headed to the college library to return the phone, Brenda had one last message for him.
“Roger, I want to thank you for doing the right thing. You have my cell number and if you ever want to get together for lunch or go for coffee, please call me. We’d love to meet you.”
A few minutes later, Jordan texted his mom to say he had picked up his phone at the library. Roger had kept his word. The blackberry was returned.
Whether or not Roger ever makes contact with Brenda and her family, only time will tell. But there is no doubt that this is one delinquent action he will never forget, for instead of accusations and belligerent words, Roger encountered a mom named Brenda who showed God’s love through texting and voice mail messages, a woman who put aside her own frustration and anger to touch a troubled and questioning college kid, a mother who showed her kids in a very practical way how to live out the grace of God.
Jordan & Brenda