A mysterious stranger arrived at a New England seaport town from somewhere across the ocean. He opened an office with a sign that simply read, "Recovery of Lost Things." At first, no one entered the stranger's office, but everyone was curious.
The stranger put an ad in the paper to further explain his business, "I will help you find anything you have lost." The explanation did not satisfy all.
"So he's a detective?" asked one villager. His question received only shrugs of uncertainty.
Yet, the explanation was enough for a woman who had lost a great deal of money. She slipped into the stranger's office under cover of night. A few nights later, another person asked for the stranger's help because he had lost his great-grandfather's Bible.
Eventually, many of the villagers felt drawn to this stranger. The more comfortable they felt with him, the more they truly opened up to him about other "things" they had lost. An aging lady with wrinkles and sadness wept before the stranger, yearning to recover the beauty of her younger days. A young man of barely twenty was filled with regret and asked the stranger if he could help him get his innocence back.
After a few weeks, the stranger sat in his office late one night with a list of grand requests:
1. Bring back opportunities that were missed.
2. Restore tarnished reputations.
3. Replace sadness with joy forfeited long ago.
4. Renew relationships destroyed by selfishness, hatred, pride, and greed.
5. Resurrect loved ones buried both recently and long ago. Many asked only for one final moment to express feelings of love, or to apologize for things said or things not said.
6. Return the accolades, fame, popularity and praise of years past that has now faded and been replaced with continual silence.
7. Remove the effects of aging, smoking, drinking, and hard living and restore health, fitness, and vibrance.
8. Replace bitterness, emptiness, loneliness, and callousness with love, joy, forgiveness, and peace.
The stranger shook his head in disbelief. He only meant to help others find lost luggage, cargo, or other tangible items left behind on nearby ships. Yet, just as these hurting souls felt drawn to him to express the loss of their truest valuables, he felt the depth of their pain, listened to their requests without clarifying his intentions, and assured each one, "I will do everything I can."
He became a praying man, a compassionate man, a broken man, and a man of great understanding concerning the importance of valuing relationships and redeeming the time.
These requests were neither returned nor recovered by the mysterious man. But at least the longing of each visitor to his office was addressed. At least the pain was confessed. At least someone listened. Someone cared.
What each villager did not know was the trail of pain and heartache from which this stranger from across the ocean had fled. He came to their village to escape. Each of their longings reflected the longings of his own heart. His wife had died giving birth to their first child. The child followed his mother into eternity an hour behind her. He dealt with the pain of his loss with great anger and drunkenness. He boarded a ship with his few possessions in hopes of getting away from the painful memories. Upon arrival at the village, the ship's crew could not find some of the belongings he had stored below deck.
As the weeks turned into years, many who had once visited his office met him along the sidewalk or in the market. They met him with smiles, hugs, handshakes, and expressions of gratitude. With renewed hope and lifted spirits, they thanked him for all he had done. What had he done?
Only what each of us can do for one another. He gave them permission to grieve, promised to get involved, and prayed on behalf of their woundings. He did so unwittingly. We can do so intentionally. In helping others with their wounds, he found healing for his own.
This morning, let's go into business together. You grab a hammer and a nail. I'll hold the shingle above our business door that says, "Recovery of Lost Things."