“Hold this,” my father said, handing me a crushed Coke can. I took it gingerly, thinking this had to be the most ridiculous command I’d ever been given. After all, what did holding a Coke can have to do with a 15-year-old girl using the public bathroom at the lake?
It definitely made things awkward, and although I toyed with the idea of dropping the offensive item once I was inside, I knew better. Dad would have had a screaming fit. Mission accomplished, I handed the can back to Dad, who promptly threw it back on the ground where he found it.
I bit back the angry retort and sullenly went back to fishing.
I don’t remember the rest of the day, but I remember for long years afterwards thinking what a stupid thing my father had asked me to do.
Fast forward 20 plus years: I’m in the library with my small daughter who needs the public restroom. We live in a small town; going to the restroom in the library ought to be safe, but it’s not. Just the week before a child had been accosted while her mother was a few feet away in the main room. I went with her and suddenly, like a glaring searchlight, flashed back to the scene at the lake. Overwhelmed, I wanted to burst out crying. My quiet, modest father had foreseen possibilities that I couldn’t fathom at that tender age. In his own way, he had sheltered me against an evil I wasn’t even aware of. The Coke can would have been a signal I needed help and he would have come running.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d matured enough to realize the priceless gift my father had given me that long ago summer day, he was no longer living. The saddest part of life is not realizing the value of someone else’s life, nor the impact it has. We often fail to see beyond what’s right in front of us to what is invisible, yet priceless.
Sometimes, the rough exterior of a common, ordinary, gray rock–like a life– hides a glittering treasure that often goes overlooked, unseen, unnoticed.