The Stolen Bike: Tribute to Dad

The Stolen Bike: Tribute to Dad

The Stolen Bike: Tribute to Dad.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for them who abuse you. To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from him who takes away your cloak do not withdraw your coat as well. Give to every one who begs from you; and of him who takes away your goods do not ask them again. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”  (Luke 6:27-36, RSV).

These words of Jesus are so radical, so counter-intuitive, so contrary to the ways of society, they seem not only impossible but maybe even a little unwise. Love your enemy and do good to someone who treats you badly? That’s not the way the world goes ’round. But I am here to tell you that these words are indeed possible, and wise, because I have seen it first hand. These words of Jesus which lie in the very center of the Christian ethic, have been fleshed out. I am a witness.

I’d like to tell you a story, a true story. I was raised in a home that didn’t have much, but we had what we needed… food, shelter, clothes, friends, sports, church, love, and solid faith. My father, Willy Larson, worked in a factory his whole life, an expert mechanic who carefully watched over the family budget and provided for my two brothers and me in an amazing way.

At one point in our family life my father wanted to provide a bike for my older brother. So he saved and saved and after a long time he went to Sears and bought my brother a new bike. My overjoyed brother drove it to the local park, and the new bike was promptly stolen. My brother was heartbroken, of course, and my father went to the police to report the theft. He asked the police to contact him if it ever turned up. After a time, the police did call, and told my dad that they found the bike, but it was broken, bent up, severely damaged. The police said it looked like a car had ridden over it, and the bike wasn’t good for much more than spare parts, maybe.

So my dad went down to the police station, retrieved the bike, and asked for them to tell him if they found out who had stolen the bike. The police said they would do that, but don’t hold your breath. A short time later, the police called my dad and said that, unexpectedly, they discovered the name and address of the bike thief. So my dad noted the details.

My dad decided to pay the thief a visit. He was a young boy from a very tough neighborhood. What did my dad decide to do at this point? What were his options? Make the boy somehow pay for the bike? Give the boy an angry lecture on the evils of thievery? Report him to the juvenile authorities? Press charges with the police? Well, during his visit to see the boy, my dad noticed the unfortunate life this boy lived… a low income tenement home; broken furniture; an empty refrigerator; a single mom with questionable means of support.

My father chose to follow the words of Jesus, literally. He decided to fix the bike at his shop and give it to the thief. Then he brought him to our house and had him eat with us at our supper table. He then gave the boy a haircut. Then he faithfully brought a bag of groceries to the boy’s home every week. My dad decided, in his humble, behind-the-scenes way, to love the local enemy, to turn the other cheek. Simple, profound. And then he started right in again to save for the replacement bike for my brother.

This story of my dad and the stolen bike is in family lore, of course, but I’ll bet it’s told around heaven as well. He won’t be the one who brings it up. But, clearly, he was merciful, as the Father is merciful.

One Reply to “The Stolen Bike: Tribute to Dad”

  1. What an amazing story of your father – a great example of grace, selflessness, and humility! I am so greatful of the legacy he left behind.