Yes Virginia, Christmas miracles are real

December 25, 2020

I am blessed today to recount to you a true story of a Christmas Miracle right here in Joplin.

The story begins almost a decade now past when in the late afternoon of May 22, 2011, two of the first people I met upon moving to Joplin found themselves huddled in their basement as hell passed over.  In minutes every material thing they owned, including the wife’s wedding ring set, was gone.  The loss of the rings was devastating.  Not for the material cost of replacing but for the sentimental value that was indeed, priceless.

But in their faith and love for each other they found strength.  And as hundreds of their fellow Joplinites did that year they punched through, they persevered, they rebuilt.

And on Valentine’s Day 2013, less than two years after they had escaped with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs, a husband looked into the eyes of the love of his life, proposed a second time, and presented her with new rings to replace those scattered to the winds that horrific day in May.

Fast forward to the evening of Wednesday, December 2nd , 2020.  Dinner done, the clean up beginning, the new rings are removed for cleaning as well.  They are placed upon a napkin to dry and the evening turns to night.

7 am the next morning, eyes still filled with sleep, a look to the left hand and it’s bare.  NO RINGS!  First thought a dash to the kitchen windowsill where they had dried in past cleanings.  EMPTY  The frantic rush through the house begins but the mind keeps going back to the kitchen.

And then came the panic when remembering that the night before they had gathered up all the trash for the morning pickup.  A run to the dumpster made it worse.  Pickup had already happened.

After controlling the tears and containing some very “colorful” language, a call is placed to the Republic 800 number.  The man on the other end was courteous and understanding, let her know that they would stop the truck and search and call her back when found the rings but also relayed the reality that “It would be like finding a needle in a haystack”.

It wasn’t long though that the same grit and determination that got her through the tornado was channeled into action.  Off she went to track down every trash truck in the area.  Flagged one down (not hers) but the driver tracked down the right truck and got it stopped mid route.

Without hesitation the driver agreed to meet her at the landfill to begin the search.  My friend noted that upon arrival at the landfill she “was met by a lovely lady that provided me with a hard hat and vest and out I went to meet the driver.”

The first layer is unloaded, and the search begins; Nothing.  Out comes the second and the process starts again.  A few minutes in, one of her bags is found as hope returns.  A diligent search but again, nothing.  A second bag the same. The driver kept reassuring her that he was going to keep looking until they were found.  Then on the third bag, as they were sifting and sorting, “he unfolded a napkin and said, “are these them”?  The tears arrived in all our eyes, the hugging began, and keepsake pictures were taken, right there in the piles of trash.”

I reached out to the driver for his recollection of the moment: “Just seeing her face as soon as I opened the wadded-up paper towel.  I was very soft and meticulous while peeling each corner of the paper towel back like a rose petal one by one and there it was in my palm.  And she was knelt directly in front of me going through the same bag.  Her face immediately went from “no way we are gonna find this” to a breakdown with tears streaming down her cheeks and catching her breath.

We hugged and she put on her rings and gazed upon them as I’m sure she did when she first bared them.

A new chapter was added to the rich story of her bands.  A new friendship was forged that day on a mound of garbage.”

A new friendship indeed.  Two total strangers started that morning on two paths invisible to each other yet within hours found themselves joined forever by events unforeseen and a story to never be forgot.

So the next time you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, or find yourself looking for your own “needle in the haystack”, remember the morning of December 3rd, 2020.

Remember how on that morning, God used a single bag of trash to relieve the pain of one, restore the faith of another, and add one more Christmas Miracle to a list that since that very first miracle in a manger those two millennia ago has been ever growing and never ending.

(A version of this column appears in the December 25th edition of the Joplin Globe)

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