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Previous Message From Virtual Church

Treasure Hunt

At the age of 62, Frankie could hardly wait for life to be over. Frankie lived in a decrepit group home for the disabled. Frankie was crippled by polio when he was a child. His polio came on just a year before the Salk vaccine was made available. To get around in the world he had to use crutches and wear leg braces. He survived on his Social Security disability check, at least what was left of the check after what the group home people took out for his monthly rent. Frankie thought he had a stinking life. Frankie never married because girls didn't want to date a cripple. Although he was smart, Frankie only went to the sixth grade because the other kids kept making fun of him. Life had dealt him a cruel hand.

On this cold November morning in Pittsburgh, the snow was beginning to drift down as Frankie sat in the neighborhood coffee shop staring at a menu he'd seen a thousand times before. The only place Frankie ever frequented for a home-cooked meal was this coffee shop. Frankie didn't make friends easily but he knew people who worked at the coffee shop. He knew Delores, the wife of the owner, who always made it a point to wait on him. Delores came over to take his order and Frankie said he'd like the chop suey. Delores brought Frankie his plate and laid one of those fortune cookie's wrapped in cellophane next to the plate. Frankie loved the chop suey but never ate the cookie. He always put the cookie in his pocket and gave it to some homeless guy out on the street. Today, as Frankie pulled out three dollars to pay the tab, Delores shoved the money back toward him and told Frankie to keep the money. The chop suey was on the house since Thanksgiving was only three weeks away. Frankie thanked Delores and for some reason, a reason Frankie could not explain, he pulled apart the cellophane around the fortune cookie and broke the cookie open to read the stupid saying on the inside. The saying said, "Find the secret of life at 315 E. Broadway." Frankie realized the fact he got a specific street address on the slip of paper was unusual. You never get a street address inside a fortune cookie. In fact, Frankie was sitting at 360 E. Broadway, so the address was on this block and across the street. Frankie pulled himself up out of the chair, grabbed his crutches, and hobbled out the door of the coffee shop. He looked down the street to where 360 should be and only saw a vacant lot. In front of the lot stood a homeless guy with long white hair and a long white beard. The homeless guy was standing out next to the sidewalk. Since the address was not that far away, Frankie hobbled over to the crosswalk, waited for the stoplight to change, and then struggled to get across the street. He struggled to walk the half block to 360. His legs had atrophied badly and the older he got the weaker his arms and legs got. Frankie finally got to the homeless guy with the long white hair and long white beard. The homeless guy didn't say anything. Instead, the homeless guy handed Frankie a list on a sheet of paper. At the top of the list were the words, "Secret Of Life Treasure Hunt" and at the bottom of the list were the words, "When you collect all the items, come back, I will be waiting." Frankie read the all the words on the paper and started to ask the homeless guy what all this was about but the homeless guy had disappeared. On the treasure hunt list were the following words:

A lock of hair
A receipt
An old newspaper clipping
A piece of cardboard
A TV schedule
A book
Evidence of transportation
An old photograph
Something from school
A card

Frankie crumpled up the paper and stuck it in his pocket thinking he would throw the list away. Not only could Frankie not easily collect all these items, it seemed like a cruel joke. Frankie turned around and headed for his bus stop. Riding the bus was easier than driving his old car. His old car was a 1975 Ford sedan that had a way of never starting when Frankie needed to get to a place where the bus line did not go. The car already had hand controls installed before Frankie owned it, which is why Frankie owned it in the first place and why he kept the car even when the car needed repairs. Someone Frankie didn't know had left the car in front of the group home many years ago and had sent Frankie the car title in the mail. Frankie had to learn to drive, but a volunteer at a local social services agency coerced Frankie into learning to drive even when Frankie was content to let the car sit and rust.

After his encounter with the homeless guy in front of the vacant lot, Frankie hobbled down to the nearest bus stop. The cold November wind was cutting into Frankie's face as he waited for the bus to arrive. The bus pulled up and Frankie lumbered up the metal steps and collapsed in the seat behind the driver. Frankie was getting more and more exhausted with each passing month. Even minor activities were beginning to take their toll. The bus driver violated the rules and did Frankie a favor today by letting him off in front of the group home so he would not have to walk the block and a half to get to the house. Frankie thanked the driver, climbed down off the bus, hobbled up the sidewalk to the front porch, pulled himself up the front steps of the group home, unlocked the front door, and walked down the entry hall to his room.

As Frankie collapsed on his bed in exhaustion he kept thinking about that secret of life treasure hunt. If there was any secret of life, Frankie thought he deserved to find out. With all the hard times Frankie had gone through, there must be some secret he'd missed along the way. Reaching into his pocket, Frankie pulled out the crumpled paper and smoothed it out to look at the list again. As he looked at the list, he began to think maybe he could find all this stuff without a lot of effort and trouble. The more Frankie thought about it, the more interesting all this sounded. He did not know why, but Frankie thought he might collect all this stuff, just to see if the homeless guy would show up. So Frankie began to collect. It took three weeks to pull everything on the list together. As it turned out, Frankie finished collecting his list of stuff the day before Thanksgiving.

The storefront church on the block down from the coffee shop gave away free Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day. Frankie always made it a point to go for the free meal since they gave you more than you could ever eat. This Thanksgiving there was the usual crowd of the homeless, lost, and broken at the storefront church lined up on the street waiting to get inside. The snow was blowing hard and the winds were blasting the snow sideways. As everyone filed in to eat, Frankie carried his back pack full of his stuff collected from the treasure hunt. As he finished his meal, Frankie thanked a couple of the volunteers who served the meal, grabbed his back pack, and struggled out the door. As Frankie used his crutches to struggle out onto the sidewalk he heard a voice say, "Need a lift?" Frankie looked up and a van had pulled up next to where he was standing on the sidewalk. In the van was the guy with the long white hair and the long white beard. Frankie said, "I was going to look for you. I have all the stuff on the treasure hunt list." The van driver said, "Yes, I know. Get in." Frankie pulled open the door of the van, pulled himself into the passenger side seat, and piled his back pack full of stuff into his lap. The van driver said, "I'll take you home." In protest, Frankie said, "Wait, I collected the stuff, now I want to know the secret of life." The van driver said, "You already have the secret. Go through your stuff, item by item. Each item by itself and all the items added together make up the secret." In protest again, Frankie said, "This was a joke from the beginning. I should have known better." The van driver replied, "No, this was not a joke. Collecting all this stuff was a gift to you." Shortly, the van pulled up in front of the group home. The van driver said, "Trust me, this treasure hunt was not a joke. You can unravel the mystery if you try. You can figure it all out if you are willing to tell and admit the truth."

Frankie opened the door of the van, thanked the guy for the ride home and hobbled up the sidewalk to the front door of the group home. Frankie opened the front door, swung himself inside, and closed the front door behind him. He still felt angry about the treasure hunt thing. Frankie walked down the entry hall to his room, and collapsed on the side of his bed. Frankie removed his leg braces and pulled open his backpack of treasure hunt items still thinking he had been deceived by someone's idea of a joke except he knew Delores would never play a joke on him by putting a specific address in a fortune cookie.

Frankie took the items out of his backpack and spread them all out on his bed. The first item Frankie collected was a lock of hair from his little niece Nancy. If there was light in Frankie's life it was little Nancy. She was three years old and she adored Frankie as much as Frankie adored her. Every Tuesday night Frankie's sister would have Frankie over for dinner and Frankie and Nancy would spend most of the time before and after the meal playing with her toys. Frankie thought to himself how Nancy was such a treasure in his life.

The next item was a receipt from the coffee shop where Frankie had opened the fortune cookie. The coffee shop was a familiar place to go. It was place where everyone was friendly, warm, and caring. Frankie always saw the same people when he would go in for a bite to eat. Many times the owner's wife would give Frankie extra food at no cost in a take home box so Frankie wouldn't have to struggle to fix a meal for himself when he got home. Frankie smiled and thought about how he treasured this place and these people.

The next item was an old newspaper clipping from the obit for James Smythe. James was Frankie's age or at least Jim would have been if Jim had lived longer. Jim died when he was 48 from cancer. What a tragedy for Jim's family and friends. Jim was the kind of person who beamed when he walked into a room and everyone else seemed to light up as well. Frankie remembered seeing the obit in the paper, clipping the obit out, and wondering to himself why he couldn't have been the one to die first. Frankie had few friends in his life, but Jim was the best of the few. As Frankie looked at the clipping he thought about how much of a treasure Jim had been in Frankie's life.

The next item was a piece of cardboard from his new transistor radio. Frankie's transistor radio was an incredible link to the world. Although Frankie did not have much of an education, Frankie was intelligent enough to understand what was going in on the world. And Frankie learned about what was going on in the world from his transistor radio. The radio would be meaningless to other more normal people but Frankie loved tuning in to all the different stations around central Pennsylvania. Since he loved sports, Frankie would use his radio to get all the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, and Penn State games. Frankie began to think about what a treasure that radio was to him in his life.

The next item was a TV schedule from the Sunday paper. Frankie not only loved his radio but he loved television, especially the cable channels. Frankie loved movies because movies helped him escape from the terrible burdens he carried each day. Frankie had an old color television in his room and although the television was old, it worked as if the set was brand new. As Frankie began to look at the TV schedule, he began to think about what a treasure the television and all the television programs were in his life.

The next item was a book. Frankie chose the Bible as a book for his treasure hunt. Frankie chose the Bible because it was the only book he owned. Frankie had a library card but getting to the library was too much of a task so Frankie just read the Bible. Frankie liked reading about the Promised Land and Heaven because reading about the Promised Land and Heaven gave Frankie hope for a better life after this life was over. As Frankie looked at his Bible, Frankie began to think about what a treasure his Bible was in his life.

The next item was a bus pass. Frankie liked to get out of the house because the group home was so confining and Frankie did not get along well with a couple of the other residents who had emotional issues. Frankie's bus pass could take him anywhere in Pittsburgh. Most of the time Frankie would just get on the bus and ride the circuit out to the far point on the route and get off at the end of the route and wait for a return bus. Frankie knew the drivers and the drivers knew Frankie. Frankie looked at the bus pass and thought about what a treasure the bus pass was in his life.

The next item was an old photograph of his grandmother. Frankie's mother and father ran away or disappeared right after Frankie had polio so Frankie's grandmother raised him until his grandmother died about twenty years ago. Frankie's grandmother was a golden hearted person. She taught Frankie God loved him and so did other people. She hated it when Frankie quit school but she was still patient and kind with him because she knew how school was an awful place for Frankie to be. Frankie looked at the picture of his grandmother and thought about all the great times they had playing board games, watching TV, or just talking. What a gem she was! What a treasure she was!

The next item was a gold star from a spelling bee he'd won in school. Of all the bad things that had happened to Frankie in school, he could still make good grades. One of Frankie's good memories about school was that spelling bee. Frankie looked at the gold star and although the gold star was not much of a treasure, it was still a treasured memory in the middle of a lot of memories that still brought pain and humiliation.

The next item was a birthday card from his sister. Frankie's sister was a lot younger than he was. In his younger years, the older Frankie got, the more difficult it was for Frankie to see his sister live a normal life while Frankie's life was so difficult. There were many years when Frankie held deep resentment against his sister for being able to do all the normal things people do while Frankie could not even begin to live what most people call a normal life. However, as Frankie got older he made peace within himself about his sister. Now, after so many years had passed, Frankie loved her and she loved him. As Frankie looked at the birthday card, he thought about what a treasure his sister was in his life.

As Frankie looked at the items he collected in the treasure hunt he began to see and understand the secret of life. He began to see the secret of life was in treasuring your treasures. He began to see the secret of life was giving thanks for what you have instead of cursing the darkness for what you do not have. He began to see how his treasures had multiplied and instead of being cheated by life he had been blessed to have what he had. He began to see it was a miracle he had survived and was able to live the life he had.

Mark 8:1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance." 4 His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?" 5 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked. "Seven," they replied. 6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9About four thousand men were present. (NIV)

 

This story appeared as the November, 2003 virtual church message at Shepherd's Care Ministries virtual church site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Entire contents copyright © 1999 - 2010 by Rev. Patrick Kelly, All rights reserved.
All content is presented on behalf of Shepherd’s Care Ministries. Shepherd's Care Ministries reserves no right or claim upon content.

Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018