By morning Karen knew she had no choice. The touch light was not hers. It must be Emily’s.
Published on: 03-01-2020
Karen’s mother had collected many things, few of them valuable. That meant when her mother passed away, Karen and her husband, Henry, spent many frustrating hours sorting the things that remained. Some of the stuff they were able to donate to charities that would give it away to people in need. But most of her collections were of value only to her. That made Karen very sad.
When the house was finally empty, the back seat of Karen’s car was stuffed tightly with memories of her mother, things that were such treasures that she simply couldn’t sell or give them away. More of her mother’s most special stuff stood tall in the back of Henry’s pick-up truck.
“The passenger seat beside me,” Karen remembers, “was home to Mother’s favorite table lamp. It was not strikingly beautiful or anything special, just bright-blue pottery shaped like an ancient water jug. The shade even looked a bit worn. Somehow, the craftsman who had made it had designed the pottery so that to turn the lamp on or off, all you had to do was touch the pottery—lightly. Oh, how Mother loved to show her guests the miracle of her touch light. I just couldn’t let it go.”
“We had just learned of a family near us whose house had burned down while they were away on business,” Henry tells the story. “Both of them were truckers, long-haul drivers whose giant truck tractors pull trailers full of stuff from one side of the United States to the other. That’s probably why I felt their need so strongly. I used to run a rig myself.”
* * *
Truckers can sometimes be a rough sort of people, always on the road, barely living from meal to meal. This family had been far away when a gas tank exploded and burned their house to the ground. There was absolutely nothing left. Nothing at all. Guessing the needs, Karen and Henry piled their pickup high with Mother’s old table and chairs, her bed, a couple dressers, kitchen utensils, pots and pans, and a few other things they thought the truckers might be able to use.
“The truckers had come home the night before and were staying in a small empty house near our place. So that’s where we were heading,” says Karen. “Taking Mother’s best to someone who might actually need and want it!”
The truckers were living at a place down a long and winding dirt road, and the vehicles created a major dust storm as Karen and Henry drove to the house.
“You should have seen their eyes light up when we emerged from the brown dust cloud,” Henry laughs.
At first the truckers, Emily and Chuck, didn’t want to admit that they needed anything. “Oh, we’ll be OK,” Emily told them. “We can get by.” Then Emily saw there was a bed in the pickup and she began walking toward it, big tears pooling in her eyes. “We really didn’t have a lot of stuff to lose in our old house,” she whispered, “and I would really like a real bed with a good mattress.”
They unloaded the bed, mattress, box springs, dressers, chairs, table, and then the pots and pans and silverware that Karen’s mother had cared for so lovingly. Emily found a place for everything in the new house, each piece helping to transform the empty building into a home.
Then Karen thought about the lamp. Emily and Chuck could use the lamp, right? Yes, they could. But Karen wasn’t sure she was willing to give it away. After all, this was her mother’s favorite lamp, the one she made her guests touch, the one she had purchased as a Christmas present for herself long ago.
I need to keep it, Karen thought. Right?
* * *
At the car, Karen told Emily about the lamp, carefully explaining how a touch light worked, and describing how much fun her mother had teaching guests to turn it on. Emily was awe-struck, like a little girl who has just seen the perfect dolly in a store but knows she cannot have it.
“I watched my husband turn the empty pickup around and drive back
down the dusty road. Then I began walking back toward my car,” recalls Karen. “Emily was with me, my neighbor crying her thankfulness again and again, begging for me to accept some payment for my generosity, listing each item with unbounded joy. I listened, but all I could think of was the touch light.”
“No,” Karen told Emily, “you don’t owe us anything. Mother would be pleased to know that you have her things and that you are happy with them.”
The women cried together, and Emily gave Karen another big “trucker hug.”
Karen had a miserable night. All she could think about was the touch light. Whenever she drifted off to sleep, God would wake her up and remind her of how Emily had loved the lamp. By morning Karen knew she had no choice. The touch light was not hers. It must be Emily’s.
After breakfast Karen raised a new dust cloud on the road to Emily’s house.
“I have one more thing for your bedroom,” Karen gushed when Emily answered the door. “It’s really quite awesome; let me show you.”
The two women walked to the room where one of Mother’s side tables stood beside Chuck and Emily’s new bed. Karen plugged the lamp into an electrical outlet and set the lamp on the table, Emily watching through eyes pooled with hope.
“Touch it,” Karen said. Emily did, matching the brightly glowing light with a gush of tears. Together they touched the lamp several more times. Turning it on, and off, and on again. Then Emily wiped her eyes and grabbed Karen’s hands.
“In all my whole life, this is the very first time someone noticed that I liked something and gave that same thing to me as a gift. No one has ever noticed what I liked before. But you, Karen! You saw. You cared. You gave!”