May 6, 1970
As Nate and I looked forward to celebrating our 6 month anniversary, we were excited about celebrating something else, too. Since January, I had been steadily writing thank-you notes for wedding gifts — and had only 3 more to go. Unfortunately, all 3 had become separated from the names of their givers, and I didn’t know who to thank.
In a letter to Mom, I described these orphan-gifts, none of them written in our blue record book, hoping she could help me solve the mystery. Amazingly, she remembered two of them, having had conversations with both givers before they made their purchases. But neither of us could figure out the third.
I felt terrible. It was bad enough people had waited so long for our acknowledgment, but never to hear from us? That was unacceptable.
Mom and I talked it over – again and again. Sometimes I woke during the night wondering who it was we were neglecting to thank. But after we’d explored all possible avenues of discovery, Mom challenged me to let it go. With her characteristic optimism she insisted the answer would come eventually.
The stray gift was a three-section serving dish – carved out of monkey pod wood. For some reason Nate found that fascinating (and humorous), calling it “the perfect conclusion” to my long thank-you project. When I brought out the dish and put it in his hands, he laughed so hard he had to take out his hankie and wipe his eyes. Something about monkey pod wood just tickled his fancy.
When I told Mom I “wouldn’t rest” till I’d solved the mystery, she said she wasn’t as concerned about that as about something else that was greatly bothering her — and it had nothing to do with thank-you notes or monkey pod wood.
She and Dad had been watching the nightly news as a fresh round of riots had broken out on the University of Illinois campus. Four unarmed students had been killed on the Kent State campus while demonstrating against the Vietnam War. In response, riots broke out on many university campuses, the U. of IL included.
Mom and Dad were concerned for their new son-in-law, knowing he was on campus every day. After watching the National Guard invade the campus once again, Mom wrote:
But it was more than just that:
We Christians must rise to stand in our faith. Jesus Christ is the only answer to society’s dilemma. How now to communicate that? Youth longs for truth. If parents cannot reveal truth, and the church fails in her appointed task, how can the young be blamed?
I had a hunch that if Mom lived in Champaign, she’d be on that campus every night, walking among the rioters, using kindness to urge them toward peace. She would also look them in the eyes and listen carefully to their complaints. She loved kids, and they loved her – always. And in her mind, college student were kids.
She wrote further:
The poor students – those who are sincerely seeking education like our Nate. If students can’t learn and practice law, to what end will criminals go?
Mom was right. Her thoughts about kids longing for truth were more important than my angst over an anonymous gift – of monkey pod wood.
“It is wrong to say…. the Almighty isn’t concerned…. He will bring justice if you will only wait.” (Job 35:13-14)