Getting Lost Things Back

for the week of October 22, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

There's always something special about getting back a personal item an heirloom, a keepsake, a treasured souvenir that has been lost. There is a sense of relief. There is the joy of having things restored to normalcy.

Bill Murphy of Avon Park, Florida, had such an experience recently. It was his size 15 high school class ring that he lost 26 years ago during a camping trip. His wife, Jill, was able to give it back to him on their 21st wedding anniversary.

The story begins with Ron and Terry Stewart of Oliver Springs, Tennessee. They purchased a campground a while back. Ron, who likes to tromp around with a metal detector, was indulging his hobby on their new property. Sweeping the ground one day, his metal detector signaled a find. As he dug around in the soil, he found a ring that had once belonged to an Avon Park Red Devil, Class of 1975. The ring bore the initials W.L.M.

Ron and Terry set about to find its owner. A bit of research located the school, and they e-mailed the high school that is located about 65 miles south of Orlando. The person who received their inquiry checked the school yearbook for 1975, found a photo of William L. (Bill) Murphy, and consulted with another teacher about the possibility that the class ring just might belong to him.

That other teacher was Jill Murphy. Bill's wife, you see, just happens to be the swim coach at Avon Park High School. She confirmed it. Bill had indeed lost his ring shortly after getting it. He had always known he lost it on a camping trip to Tennessee, but he had long ago given up any hope of ever seeing it again.

With its owner identified, the Stewarts mailed the ring to Jill Murphy at the school. She kept everything a secret, however, until October 12, 2001. She gave her husband a very special surprise that day by putting the ring back on his hand.

According to Jill, her husband was "stunned" when he opened the box and saw what was in it. Now there is a sense of relief, a sense of delight.

While you and I smile at Bill Murphy's good fortune, perhaps we should reflect a bit on how uncommon it is to get back certain things we lose. Rather than seeing this story as a promise of so unlikely an outcome, maybe it should remind us to be extra careful with things we know to have great value personal integrity, a friend's trust, a child's respect, your family's love, your immortal soul.

Guard such holy things. Once trifled with, they seldom can be retrieved.

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