By Michael Halleen
Bring the best robe and put it on him,… (Luke 15:22)
Pete was one of my best friends in high school. He was an only child, the kind of kid on whom some parents dote. Mr. and Mrs. T. would do anything for Pete. When he went off to Harvard, his parents, despite being cramped in a condo, maintained his room just as it was, pennants and posters in place. It was Pete's room…always.
Pete had a dog, an old black lab named Frankie, who had been his pet from the time he was a young boy. I used to visit Mrs. T. occasionally when I was in the neighborhood to pick up the latest news about Pete. At each of my visits, lying on his rug in the corner of the living room, there was Frankie—ugly, old, half-blind, unable to do more than totter around because of arthritis. He was neither useful nor ornamental. Once I made an uncomplimentary remark about the dog, and Mrs. T. said, "Mike, Frankie's no burden to us. We'll love him till he dies because he's Pete's dog." This totally dependent, odd-looking creature had meaning, dignity and worth in their eyes just because he belonged to the son they adored.
The father of the prodigal told his servants to put the best robe on the boy when he returned home — and a ring and some good sandals too. Having done everything wrong and on a fast track to nowhere, the son finally had decided that throwing himself on the pity of his father was his only hope of survival. Instead of pity he found love. His father saw past the mistakes and recognized one whom he adored—worthy of care and of the best gifts he could offer.
A seminary classmate, a Coast Guard veteran, had a hard time with his studies in his first year out of the service. He kept a dress uniform in his closet, and sometimes in the midst of a rough afternoon in the library, he said he was going home to polish his medals. I know that at least once he put them on again. It was his way to reestablish a sense of worth.
An old dog, a runaway boy, a struggling student — bring out the best for them! Each was worthy. We can be encouraged to know that, like them, we — whether old and past our prime, or detoured on a path sideways to our best interests, or just feeling inadequate to the expectations laid on us — are worthy too.