Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Startling Story of the Stolen Stihl

I gave myself the gift of a brand new chain saw a year and a half ago, a smooth running Stihl 250. Until then I had always gotten by with a used one for cutting our annual supply of firewood, first a faithful Homelite and later a secondhand Stihl aptly named “Farm Boss.”  When that one finally breathed its last, I heeded the advice of family members who urged me to get a new one.
    Just before Christmas last year we had one of the heaviest snow storms ever. Soon thereafter, on a cold day while I was at work, a friendly stranger came to our door and asked my wife if he could shovel out our lower drive--for a modest fee. Among other things, he explained, he had just been awarded visitation of his ten-year-old son and needed some extra cash to buy him some things for Christmas.
    While my kindhearted spouse had never met the man before, he seemed pleasant enough, and we did need more parking space cleared for holiday guests. So why not have him remove the snow, she thought, to surprise me and to do a needy person a favor? “Just return the shovel to the utility room when you’re finished,” she said, “and I’ll have your money waiting for you there in an envelope.”
    Meanwhile, she went about her work and only occasionally checked to see how he was doing. A phone call she received near the time he was finishing prevented her from actually seeing him leave, but when she checked everything out, found the shovel back in its place and the payment gone, she felt satisfied that all was well. And excused herself for the extra generous payment she had left for him. After all, it was Christmas.
    When I came home that evening and learned about my wife's surprise move, I assured her it was fine. Whether or not his story was entirely true, I figured, it's better to err on the side of generosity.
    It was not until the next morning that I discovered my new chain saw, stored in the aforementioned utility room and with the word "stihl" emblazoned on it in bold letters, was missing. Just plain gone, nowhere to be found.
    My wife was devastated, in spite of my assurances that a chain saw was quite replaceable, and that she needn’t be hard on herself. I also promised I would report the missing saw in case it showed up in a pawn shop somewhere and could be recovered. “Maybe I just loved my new toy a little too much,” I joked.
    Much to our surprise, the sheriff’s deputy assigned to the case showed up with the stolen Stihl the very next day, on Christmas Eve. “Here’s your saw,” he said, “Merry Christmas. And the gentleman who took it will be spending his holiday in jail.” Which seemed fair enough, though we couldn't help feeling sorry for anyone having to be behind bars at this special time of the year.
    But the story doesn’t end there. Since then, we have had a series of conversations and an exchange of letters with our unexpected friend. We learned he has earned the position of “trusty” in his jail pod and is scheduled to be released December 24, exactly a year after being locked up for stealing my Stihl.
    In a recent letter he wrote, “Yes, it's a blessing to be leaving here on Christmas Eve. It makes me feel special to know God has plans for me.”
    Among those plans is to spend his first months of freedom at Gemeinschaft Home, a local recovery and re-entry program for ex-offenders, subject to our being able to raise at least $500 toward his first month's stay.
    Our new friend, along with so many others who have ever been incarcerated, face the doubly daunting task of finding a job, a decent place to live and the kind of treatment and support network they need to remain free of their addictions.
    I say, "God bless them every one."

P. S. As a strong believer in the mission of Gemeinschaft Home and a member of its board, I urge you to become a "Friend of Gemeinschaft" by writing a check of $50 or more and mailing it to Gemeinschaft Home, 1423 Mt. Clinton Pike, Harrisonburg, VA 22802. Or you can contribute online at to help this and other persons get a new start.
     Note: Since our new friend will not be on parole when he is released, he is ineligible for state funding for his stay, but hopes to get a job and pay his own way as soon as possible.
     Thanks for your help!
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