Excerpt from
Fables of Faith

"This is Mrs. Crandel next door. It looks to me like some smoke is coming out of your garage."
"Smoke?!" he shouted.

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Valuable Collections

A Character story about security.

"Hi, Mom," Shawn called as he jumped into the car. "Thanks for picking me up."
His mother smiled. "I didn't want you to have to walk home from school in this rain." She started the car and headed down the road. "How was school today?"
"Oh, about the same. I can hardly wait until summer vacation."
"Summer? That's a ways away. I hope you're applying yourself to your work. Oh, by the way, I was cleaning in your room today and I came on a small box that was taped shut and very heavy. What's in it?"
"Oh that. I'm collecting bottle tops. I want to see if I can get to 1000 in a month."
"A thousand? I don't think you can drink that much pop."
"Not just me. Other kids are collecting them for me too. Mat and I are having a contest to see who can collect the most in a month. I'm pretty sure I'll win, but he won't tell me how many he has."
"How many do you have now?" his mother asked.
"As of the 32 given me today, I have 293, and I still have 2 and a half weeks to go."
"Oh," his mother added, "I almost forgot. When we get home, will you put a stick of wood in the stove in the garage? Your father wants to work out there tonight. And be sure that you close the stove door. I hope that new latch comes in pretty soon, before something terrible happens."

A few weeks later Shawn announced at supper, "Well, guess what. I won the contest today."
"What contest is that?" his father asked with a smile.
"You know, Dad. I had the most pop bottle tops. Matt has to buy me a chocolate bar. I knew I'd win. I collected 843 in only a month. Kids all over the place brought me bottle tops. But I still didn't reach my goal so I'm not going to give up. I'm gunna keep collecting them until I get 1000."
"And then what?" asked his mother. "What will you do with 1000 pop bottle tops?"
"I don't know. You don't have to do anything with them. You just collect them for something to collect. That's all."

Time passed, and soon the signs of spring were beginning to appear. One Saturday morning Shawn's mother said to him, "Son, you must do something with those boxes of bottle tops. They're right in the way when I need to go into your room."
"But what? I think pretty soon I'm gunna get into the Guiness Book of Records for the most pop bottle tops. I counted them last Saturday and I had 8545 then! I got a regular routine on the way home from school now."
"I thought you were going to be happy with 1000."
"That was only the beginning, Mom. People keep bringing them so I keep collecting them. I go by the mall and check all 14 of the pop machines. Sometimes Mr. Thomas keeps them for me at his store. Wouldn't that be something, my picture in the Guiness book. Wow!"
"I have an idea for something you can do with all these tops," his mother offered.
"Mom, if I collect tops this fast until I'm 20 years old, do you have any idea how many pop bottle tops I would have?"
"Yes, too many for our house. Now as I was saying, I have a constructive suggestion. There is a group of handicapped people who are looking for pop bottle tops to make door mats. They are excellent for scraping mud from shoes. Why don't you give your boxes to them so that they could use them?"
"But Mom, I couldn't do that? If I get in the Guiness book, how will they know I had that many?"
"But that may take years, and far more storage than we have. In the mean time, your tops could be put to good use."
"I'll think about it, anyway."
"Well, in the mean time, I want you to store them in the garage. They're too bulky to be kept in your room any longer."
"O.K." Shawn sighed. He grabbed his first box and headed for the garage where his dad was cutting some boards.
"Hi, Son. Want to help for a while?" he shouted over the noise of the saw.
"Sure, as soon as I get my collection safely stored out here somewhere. Mom doesn't want it in my room any longer."
When Shawn had retrieved his last box, his dad asked, "What did you think of your mother's idea of giving the tops to the handicapped?"
"I think it's a good idea. But I couldn't give them away yet. I still haven't even collected 100,000."
"A hundred thousand? What happens when you get that many?"
"Aw, nothing. It's just a goal. You know how you told me to set goals? Well, my goal is 100,000. Then maybe I will give them away, or even sell them."
"And who wants to buy 100,000 bottle tops?" his dad asked.
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe a pop company."
It was the middle of the afternoon before their wood project was finished. Shawn's dad looked at his watch. "Oh, I didn't know it was so late. I've got an appointment in 30 minutes. Shawn, could you clean up here a little for me?"
"I guess. I'll have it as clean as new." When his dad had left, Shawn began to vacuum up the sawdust and put away the wood. It was getting cool in the garage so he threw the sawdust and some of the scrap lumber into the stove. Soon he was finished and headed for the house to watch T.V.
After a while the phone rang and Shawn answered. "This is Mrs. Crandel next door. It looks to me like some smoke is coming out of your garage."
"Smoke?!" he shouted. Shawn threw down the phone and dashed through the back door toward the garage. Smoke was billowing through the door as he approached. He tried to force his way through the smoke to get to the fire extinguisher but it was no use. He turned and ran back for the house to call the fire department.
When the fire fighters finally left, Shawn and his dad stood at the door, examining the damage. "I guess I was in a hurry and didn't close the door on the stove."
"Yes, I'm sure that's what caused the fire. We can thank the Lord that it wasn't worse, like spreading to the house. And at least most of the damage is covered by insurance."
Shawn poked at the charred remains of two boxes of pop tops. "What a waste,' he sighed. "I could have given them to the handicapped, but now they're ruined. It seemed so important to collect all I could. What was so important before now seems trivial."
"Son, if you learn that lesson today, it was worth this fire. Many people invest their entire lives in things that seem so important at the time. But when they stand face to face with the Lord, those things will be less than trivial. I don't want to be like that."
Shawn shook his head. "Me either."

Read Luke 12:13-21. How was Shawn like the farmer in this story? How are you?