Many moons ago, in my first summer at Grace (2003), I was given a lanyard. It was a cherished gift, an in-crowd thing, for the in-the-staff-at-GYC-crowd, given to us all by Chad Saxton. At least, that's how I remember it. I've had it for a long time.
By some miracle, it survived being one of my possessions. I lost it many, many times, but it always came back. It was subject to some pretty serious perils - dangling off my neck over starting campfires, unscrubbed toilets, plates of food, lots of dangerous situations. We had some good times together:
(together on a hiking trip)
(during my short lived blue-glue-hair punk, eat potatoes from Styrofoam cups phase)
(Worn completely unnecessarily during the eating contest at Mangames. Shoutout to Jared and Tim.)
(As an aquatic observer, complete with required AO whistle, on the raft. Shout out to Dave and Paolo)
The lanyard was a beautiful thing. At first, it was just a very convenient way of holding onto keys. At Grace, I only needed two keys. One got me past padlocks, and another got me into everything else. (Note to self: Come up with a clever joke about how the keys didn't just get me into doors, but trouble too.) It maintained that cause when I brought it down here to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, now I have a bunch of keys that I carry everywhere and now I walk around with saggy shorts. I think they're affecting my posture too. I couldn't carry them around my neck, so I kept them off the lanyard and used it just for the whistle and the house key. But anyway.
(see. I told you: Lots of keys.)
But it became more than a key-holder. It became a treasure of sorts. It said "Grace Youth Camps," something no lanyard is likely ever to say again because it's Grace Adventures now. Only people from way-back-when could have one. It was a part of my history, a symbol.
Also, it had a little clip so I could detach it and let people borrow my keys without having to endure the enormous inconvenience of removing the whole lanyard from my neck.
So it was disheartening when I lost the lanyard and the house key and whistle it held two months ago. I had loaned it to someone to use the whistle - the same one that had been attached to it for years, probably. When camp ended, I realized all the counselors had gone home and I didn't have my lanyard. I called around to see if anyone had it. They didn't. One guy said another guy had it last, that guy said another guy had it last. I worried, just a little, but held out hope it might turn up on camp someday. It had my house key on it too. For the time being, my house went unlocked.
I was picking up some trash outside by our firepit.
Dave was riding around on the lawnmower by the firepit.
And I heard
an awful clink-clang-clunk-thump of some foreign object being run through a lawnmower.
And I don't have to tell you it was my lanyard, whistle, and house key.
Dave shut off the mower and held up the pieces. He asked if it was mine. My heart sank.
A little shred of my history had just been demolished by a lawnmower. The whistle was gone. The house key was somehow still intact, just a little scraped and bent. The cloth of the lanyard was chopped into pieces, so one of them said "Grace Yo" and another said "-th ca" and still another "mps." I held them in my hands and wanted to sob a little bit.
"So you've been here the whole time. I've been missing you." It seemed like a such a tragedy that this thing, this cheap little thing, could endure for so long, could narrowly escape death or separation so many times, hang around my neck for so many memories, and sit outside waiting for me to find it only to meet its doom in a split second in a lawn mower. I held my composure. I didn't sob or anything, but the disappointment was displayed on my face nevertheless.
I'm sentimental, I guess.
Markus was there, and he took the pieces from my hands. He said, "I can tell that this meant a lot to you. I'll see what I can do."
Markus sews. Sometimes I make fun of him for it.
And so it was that this week, Markus called me and told me he had a gift for me. He came over and knocked on my door. I opened it, and he held out his hand with the lanyard hanging from it. He had fixed it. I was kind of speechless. He stitched the whole thing together, and even re-embroidered the missing letters back on it as best he could. It's a little crooked in spots but that's no big deal. Actually, it gives it some character. It gives it even more background story.
This concludes the story of how the lanyard, a symbol, was lost, destroyed, found, repaired, returned. Redemption is a beautiful thing on every level.