What a Tonka Dump Truck Taught Me About Compassion

Today I discovered that my son’s large Tonka dump truck had been stolen from our front yard.

I guess I can’t prove that it was stolen, but our other toys were left and it was gone. It was too large to be blown away by the wind. We know we didn’t leave it anywhere else.

And I remembered that sinking, empty, violated feeling from the time our bikes vanished from our open garage several years ago. (At our old house, in the suburbs, nonetheless.)

“Where’s my dump truck?”

We looked around for it some other places in case we had moved it and forgotten, but in my gut I knew that it was gone.

My first reaction was sheer anger and disgust. Who would take a child’s toy? 

I know bikes get stolen easily and often. It’s the one thing I’m now super careful about always locking up. That time, it really was our fault for accidentally leaving the garage door open all night. We were practically inviting theft by posing such a tantalizing opportunity.

But I’ve always considered there to be a kind of unwritten rule about children’s stuff. Strollers. Car seats. Stuffed animals. You just don’t do that.

I tried to comfort my son with hugs and understanding. I found tears welling in my own eyes at his distress.

I found my own trust and faith in humanity sinking slowing. Maybe people aren’t as good as I always assumed. Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.

“I don’t have a dump truck anymore!” he wailed.

“Well maybe someone didn’t have money to buy their own dump truck. Maybe they don’t have any toys. We have money. We can buy another one.”

“But it won’t be the same one.”

Whoever stole this thing ought to have to see the look on my son’s face. They should be ashamed.

It just isn’t fair.

He mourned his loss throughout the night, moving quickly through the stages of grief. He did bounce back, but every now and then he would still remember and quietly say “I don’t have a dump truck anymore.”

I Googled the same version of the dump truck that was lost. It goes for $50 even at Walmart!

I looked a few other places and found it on sale for a little less at a Toys R Us nearby. (Who goes to Toys R Us anymore??)

It isn’t normal for us to drop $50 on a toy. Like, ever. This was a Christmas gift from his uncle. We knew our son liked it but in retrospect we would have treated it better had we known what it cost.

This is why we can’t have nice things. Nice things have to be taken care of – sometimes locked up. We don’t do well with nice things…or they don’t do well with us.

Josh and I are frugal minimalists. I can count on one hand the new toys we’ve purchased – for both our children combined.

We’d rather foster in them a love of nature and curiosity about the world than teach them to be greedy for material things.

But because of this, our kids don’t have all that many toys to begin with. And they actually play with the ones they have. Lately, the truck had been part of a very busy make-believe construction site in the front yard, moving sticks, pine cones, leaves, and walnuts.

And according to our personal list of things I ask myself before making a purchase, we do replace things that we use when they break – or, in this case, disappear mysteriously.

So I considered all this. Considered asking for it (again?) for Christmas. Considered waiting to see if he’ll simply forget about it. (Even though his brother still has a dump truck…that certainly won’t cause any conflict!) And finally I just purchased it – and asked for in-store pickup.

I still kicked myself on spending that much on something so unnecessary.

This is Super Frugal Year. We have goals. Why did I just do that? Why did this have to happen in the first place?

But then God reminded me of something. You would have given that truck to the person if they had knocked on your door and told you their story and asked for it. Don’t fret over things that can be replaced.

And about replacing it:

Why would you give a gift to strangers that you wouldn’t give to your son? Is that your idea of generosity?

It reminded me a little of the wording in Matthew 7:11.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

And then the real kicker for me:

Don’t be angry at the person who did this. Be angry at the situation behind them doing this.

With those words, a flood of cleansing release spread over me like a blanket.

The pent-up emotions from the day trickled away.

My clenched fists released finally.

Bitterness and anger are so interesting. They do so much more damage to the person holding them than to the person they are against.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32

The simple invitation to lay down my frustration and pick up compassion was all I needed.

How blessed am I that I have $50 in the bank?

How blessed am I that I had good adults in my life who taught me my whole life not to steal?

How blessed am I that my children have grandparents and aunts and uncles who are present in their lives and who give them such cool gifts?

It’s impossible to stay mad while thinking these kinds of thoughts.

Suddenly all that I can feel is gratitude and love. Even love for this person who did us wrong.

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Luke 6:30

Who am I to judge without knowing their story? I have no idea what it is like to be them. Whoever they are, whatever they are up against, I will say a prayer for them tonight.

I will pretend like they asked and I gave them that truck. I will pretend that we bonded in the moment. Pretend that our souls connected briefly over the interaction.

After all, a dump truck isn’t that big of a deal.

People are worth a lot more than $50. Why did I get so bent out of shape over $50?

I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And I’d want my son to do the same.

But since dump trucks are kind of a big deal when you’re four years old….

Josh just texted me and he’s successfully picked up the toy we ordered. It is indeed identical to the old one.

Now I can’t wait to see my son’s face in the morning.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.

Genesis 50:20

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Jesus in Matthew 5:38-44

One Comment

Add yours →

  1. I’m sorry to hear of his distress. So glad you found him a replacement. It’s funny the things that stick with you, I still vividly recall some of my early toys. I can only imagine his joy at the toy and love.
    Though an emotional post, I did laugh when I read your feelings about nice things. I feel the same way. I try to be respectful of all my things but $2 books are much easier to care for than the $20 ones!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: