Summer is winding down for me. School starts August 9, and the sum total of things I intended to accomplish but didn’t is sort of overwhelming. Therefore, I am only going to pay attention to the things I DID get done. I don’t think I need to list them. I gave of my time. I kept the home front. I tried to pay attention to what had value. With that in mind, here is a good e-mail that I received from my friend Martha. Its title? “Value.”

A young man learns what’s most important in life from the guy next door.

It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.

Over the phone, his mother told him, “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.”

Memories flashed through Jack’s mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly, remembering his childhood days.

“Jack, did you hear me?”

“Sorry, Mom. Yes. I heard you. It;’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry. I honestly thought he died years ago,” Jack said.

“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him, he’d ask how you were doing. He’ reminisce about the many days you spent over on ‘his side of the fence.'”

“I loved that old house he lived in,” Jack said.

Jack’s mom continued. “You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life.”

Jack smiled as he remembered. “He’s the one who taught me carpentry. I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important…Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack said.

As busy as he was, Jack kept his word. He caught the next flight to his hometown.

Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.

The night before he had to return home, Jack and his mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time. Standing in the doorway,Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through time and space. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture…

Jack stopped suddenly.

His mom started. “What’s wrong, Jack?” she asked.

“The box is gone.”

“What box?”

“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on the top of his desk. I must have asked a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was that it was the thing he valued most.”

Everything about the house was exactly as Jack remembered it except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it. “Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack mused. He turned to his mother. “I’d better get some sleep, Mom. I have an early flight home.”

It had been about two weeks since Mr. Belser’s death. Returning home from work one day, Jack discovered a note in his mailbox. “Signature required on a package, no one at home. Please stop by the main post office within the next three days,” the note read.

Early the next day, Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed years before. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention. “Mr. Belser,” it read.

Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack‘s hands shook as he read the note inside.

“Upon my death, please forward this box to Jack Bennet. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.”

A small key was taped to the letter. Heart racing, eyes filled with tears, Jack carefully unlocked the box. Inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch. Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside, he found these words engraved:

“Jack, thanks for your time.”–Harold Belser

Jack leaned back in his seat. He didn’t try to wipe away the tears that filled his eyes. “The thing he valued most…was…my time,” he said to himself.

After a few minutes, Jack called his office and cleared his appointments for the next few days.

Why?” asked his assistant, Janet. “We’re so busy!”

“I need to spend time with my son,” he said. “Oh, and Janet? Thanks for your time.”

Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

Matthew 6:19-21, The Message

1 Response to “Value”

  1. 1 writeathome July 18, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    That’s a heartwarming story. I have seen it before, but it was good to read it again and be reminded that time is a very valuable gift that we can give to our friends and loved ones. Thanks for sharing.


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