Sometimes, people get separated from home but years later find their way back; and, sometimes, objects we love are lost and then unexpectedly returned to us. Two news stories this week reminded me of homecomings like these.
In 1986, a poor five-year-old boy named Saroo in a small town in India was hopping on trains with his older brother to earn some money sweeping seating areas. Late one day, he sat down on a bench at the train station to rest and fell asleep. When he awoke, he didn’t see his brother and assumed he was on the train waiting on the tracks. He jumped aboard to find his brother. Again, he fell asleep and when he awoke hours later he was in Calcutta and didn’t know the name of his hometown to be able to tell people.
Alone and scared, he learned to scrounge food and to survive. Fortunately, he ended up in an orphanage rather than dead, and a couple from Tasmania, Australia, agreed to adopt him. To a youngster, going to Australia sounded exciting. He grew up in Australia, but recently became strongly interested in finding his home and family in India. So, he began a search.
Based on a math formula incorporating the time he was asleep on the train and the estimated speed of train travel, he arrived at an estimated mileage. Using Google Earth search, he zeroed in on locations and in one town he saw a waterfall and pool area that looked like a place he remembered swimming and bathing as a boy. Taking the one picture he had of his family, he traveled to the town and began looking around. He found an area that seemed vaguely familiar and someone looking at the picture recognized his mother. She had moved, but the person knew where to find her. Saroo went there and was reunited with his mother and family, though he discovered that the older brother he rode trains with was killed not long after Saroo had gotten lost.
It was an emotional homecoming for him and his mother, as you might imagine.
Seems to me it’s that way sometimes in our faith journey also. We go to sleep spiritually and wake up a long way from where we were. It’s nice to know, though, that just as home was still there and his mother was waiting for Saroo, home is still there and God is waiting for us.
Misaki Murakami, a 16-year-old boy in Japan had a soccer ball he treasured. The ball had messages of encouragement written on it by friends and had been given to him in the third grade as a good-bye gift when he transferred to another school. On March 11, 2011, Misaki’s home was washed away in the great tsunami that devastated a portion of Japan. The soccer ball was in the house, and Misaki assumed it was gone forever.
Not so. Very soon he will have it back.
Recently, David Baxter, a radar technician from Kasilof, Alaska, was beachcombing with a friend on Middleton Island, 70 miles south of the Alaskan mainland, and found the soccer ball, now 5,100 miles from where it was washed into the ocean. David’s wife is Japanese and could read the writing on the ball. They began a search and were able to locate Misaki, talk to him on the phone, and are now making arrangements to return the ball to him.
Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say the ball is one of the first pieces of debris from last year’s tsunami to wash up on the other side of the Pacific. NOAA officials say that some debris will arrive this year but they expect most of it to wash ashore along the coasts of Alaska, Canada, Washington and Oregon between March 2013 and 2014.
Misaki had not expected his soccer ball to be returned, and many of us have things in our lives we don’t expect to return. But some will. Some returning may be the results of actions we regret, and some may be acts of kindness we never expected to be returned to us. No doubt, our lives will be better if we live so that those unexpected returns are welcomed, not regretted.