Several months ago, one of the cops in my town donated a near mint condition bike that used to be his daughter’s. “Barely a scratch on it,” he said.
“You could donate it to the thrift barn,” I told him, referring to a local outfit that accepts books, clothes, and toys, sells them for a song, and then gives to money to local charities. “I’m sure some kid will be happy to get it.”
“No,” the cop said. “I don’t want some picker to buy it and sell it for a profit.” Message received and understood. He wanted it to go to someone who really could use it. That bike, however, has been taking up space in my office for months, waiting for someone who meets the cop’s criteria. But it’s not the first time this kind of thing has happened to me.
Several years ago, a man came to my office looking to donate a large medieval castle set complete with four inch figurines of lords, ladies, knights and horses. In pristine condition, it was made in the 1980’s and looked very expensive.
“I bought it at FAO Schwartz for my son,” the donor told me. “But he died before he got a chance to play with it. I’ve held on to it for years, but now I’m at the point where I can finally let it go.”
Being a father myself, I thought about all my daughter’s toys and what I would do if the unthinkable happened. I could see myself not letting go, maybe leaving Natalie’s room with all her stuffed animals on her bed – waiting for a return that would never happen. I wondered if this man kept his son’s room as a shrine for thirty years. I could not and had no wish to try imagining his pain.
“I’ll make sure it goes to someone who could use it,” I told him.
I thought unloading the castle would be a piece of cake. I was wrong. None of my clients wanted it, saying that it was “too big.” I tried calling several children’s hospitals, but they demurred citing “liability reasons. So, the castle remained in storage, making me wince with guilt every time I saw it. I had made a promise and failed to honor it, making me worry what would happen if that father popped in and saw it still unloved and unused. But I never saw him again.
After several years, I thought of donating it to the Thrift Barn but decided against it for the very reason the cop didn’t want to bring his daughter’s bike there – because some sharp eyed picker would buy it for twenty bucks and then sell it for hundreds on eBay. Lining some guy’s pockets with another person’s tragedy just seemed wrong so I waited. And waited. Then a day care serving underprivileged kids operated by Head Start came to me looking for food donations. After giving them a carload of food, inspiration struck. “I have this lovely toy castle set,” I said. “Would you like to have it?” When I showed it to them, they smiled.
“Yes, they said. “Our children would really enjoy it.”
Now dozens of tiny tots are playing with that castle set. I have no doubt they’ve put some wear and tear on those lords, ladies, knights and horses – but it’s bringing delight to poor children who’re now imagining a world of filled with chivalry, tourneys, dragons and magic, exactly what that bereaved father wanted. Mission accomplished – finally. Eventually that bike will also find a deserving home. I just need to be patient.
I think about that father often. During my tenure I’ve encountered several parents who’ve lost their children and it always frightens me. The possible death of a child is a specter that hangs over every parent’s head, mine included, though I suggest you keep such dreadful musings to a minimum. Now, when I see that bike, I always think about that man’s dead son. I hope he’s found some measure of peace, knowing in a way that surpasses understanding that is son is now happy – eternally playing with infinite joy in that Great Big Castle In The Sky.