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Friday, May 9, 2014

Pay The Bear

[This post first appeared on October 7, 2011.]

My wife and I got out of town to go camping with our "special needs" adult son, Rodney, and his friend David. We drove two hours out of Seattle into the Cascade mountains, and pitched our tents at Fish Lake.

Needing wood for our campfire, I noticed the campground was selling bundles for $5. But I recalled seeing a sign just off the main highway as we turned toward the lake, advertising firewood for 20% less. Passing this location on our way back from a side-trip, we stopped to purchase firewood there.

As we pulled into the orderly establishment, we noticed large, beautiful wood carvings for sale, all out in the open, with no one around. I saw a pile of wood, and drove toward it. Here we found a carved bear with a jar atop its head. The jar had “Firewood $4.00” written on it, and a sign at the bear’s feet read, Pay The Bear. No one was present to receive our payment.

I helped myself to a bundle of wood, and "paid the bear." As I did, I found the jar was full of money. Hard cash. Currency. Full! I paid for my purchase with a sense of wonderment, and a heart of thanks for economic and civil visionaries such as William Bradford, who brought something with them across the Atlantic more valuable than gold: a basis for the kind of trust, moral integrity, and self-government that allows such scenes to still occur in rural Americaand enables business to work its best.  

I couldn't help but think of a similar experience of Vishal Mangalwadi. In the opening chapter of his book, Truth and Transformation, he tells of his first trip to the Netherlands, where his host said, “Come, let’s go get some milk.” They walked to a nearby dairy farm and entered the milk room, where no one was present. Mangalwadi’s host filled his jug with milk, then took down a bowl full of cash from a windowsill, put twenty guilders into the bowl, took some change, put the bowl back, and started walking away.

“I was stunned,” Mangalwadi wrote. "Man," I said to him, “if you were an Indian, you would take the milk and the money.”

Then Mangalwadi posits: "Where did this morality come from? Why isn’t my society equally trustworthy?”

I'll share Mangalwadi's answer to his own question next week.

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Allow me to introduce my remarkable son Rodney, one of God's great gifts to the world. He is the youngest of our four adult children, turning 36 in July. All of our kids are remarkable, of course! But Rodney is very unique. Space does not permit me to expound upon this now.

Rod loves sports. Always prepared to catch a fly ball. Go Seattle Mariners! 

Rodney gave his Mother this lion puppet for her birthday, to use when she teaches his adults-with-special-needs Sunday School class at his church once a month. He also got her a lamb to go with the lion. (A very theologically astute guy!)
Success at Fish Lake! What an awesome fisherman he is. (You gotta love that look in Rod's eyes...)
Rodney with his friend David, warming up around the campfire, thanks to "the bear"and William Bradford.