In 1965 a story was published that teaches a beautiful and powerful lesson. It is the story of a paroled convict. A friend of Prison Warden Kenyon J. Scudder happened to be sitting in a railroad coach next to a young man who was obviously depressed. Finally the man revealed that he was a paroled convict returning from a distant prison. His imprisonment had brought shame to his family, and they had neither visited him nor written often. He hoped, however, that this was only because they were too poor to travel and too uneducated to write. He hoped, despite the evidence, that they had forgiven him.
To make it easy for them, however, he had written them to put up a signal for him when the train passed their little farm on the outskirts of town. If his family had forgiven him, they were to put a white ribbon in the big apple tree which stood near the tracks. If they didn’t want him to return, they were to do nothing, and he would remain on the train as it travelled west.
As the train neared his home town, the suspense became so great he couldn’t bear to look out of his window. He exclaimed, “In just five minutes the engineer will sound the whistle, indicating our approach to the long bend which opens into the valley I know as home. Will you watch for the apple tree at the side of the track?” His companion changed places with him and said he would. The minutes seemed like hours, but then there came the shrill sound of the train whistle. The young man asked, “Can you see the tree? Is there a white ribbon?”
Came the reply: “I see the tree. I see not one white ribbon, but many. There must be a white ribbon on every branch. Son, someone surely does love you.”
Warden Scudder’s friend said afterwards that he felt like he had witnessed a miracle that day. The love and forgiveness extended by the convict’s family gave him the power to change. I believe that such a generous act of kindness cannot help but change the giver of such a gift as well.
There is a destiny that makes us brothers;
None goes his way alone:
All that we send into the lives of others
Comes back into our own
We cannot do good to others without good coming back into our own lives. It is a principle and a law as fixed and unchanging as the law of gravity. As we do good to other people and raise them up, we in turn are lifted to higher planes. We become more as we help others to become more.