The valuable lesson of helping others


It was nine years old, round and made of white gold. Yes, it was valuable, but more sentimentally prized. How could that have happened so suddenly and unexpected? Now it was gone — his wedding band.

After receiving the call, my heart hurt for my son-in-law and daughter.

“Mama, we were in the boat and decided to pull ashore where there was a rope hanging from a tree,” my daughter explained. “We thought it would be fun to swing out over into the water and show the boys how to grab hold of the rope, and swing down to the water then ‘splash.’ As their dad let go of the rope, the ring let go and slipped off his finger just as he hit the water!”

I consoled her with motherly words. “You can’t help it. Well, you all are not physically hurt by what happened.”

Then my mind raced to memories of my niece’s diamond falling out of the setting of her wedding ring into the washing machine, and now is floating somewhere in the Ashley River.

Also, another relative’s wedding ring’s fate was worse by her accidentally throwing it away along with papers from her bedside table. It is now in the landfill.

Days passed, and then a week went by. Someone suggested the idea of buying a metal detector and going back to the area of the rope swing. In that massive body of water, how could that small round circle of metal be found? To them it was worth a try.

With a metal detector in hand, the family went back to the area where the ring slipped off. They sloshed back and forth, in and out of the water, waving the detector over the water as deep and wide as possible without getting it wet.

They heard not even a squeak. They were resigned to the fact that it was gone forever. Since it had been more than a week that it was lost, the sand had probably washed over it many times, and the current could have taken it to a different location all together.

Later in the week while volunteering at the homeless shelter, my son-in-law was telling another volunteer his still raw and painful tale of the lost wedding band. He told him how he even bought a metal detector but the search was futile.

The man listened intently and said, “What you need is a metal detector that can be used in saltwater, and I have one. I enjoy going out during the weekend, and I can search deeper in the water. Tell me where you were, and I will go see what I can do.”

The precise location of the rope swing and phone numbers were shared. Then the men began doing the important job they came to do, serving breakfast to those less fortunate.

Even more days passed. Then one evening, I heard my daughter’s high-pitched voice over the phone. “The volunteer at the homeless shelter found the ring! We are so thankful.”

Was it a coincidence two men were placed at that particular location? Did they just happen to start talking? I have to believe in life when we are willing to help and serve others. We, in turn, are the one receiving the blessing.

In living to maturity, we learn lessons. Value is not measured by possessions, but lasting value is what we do for others, and not expecting personal gain.

Perhaps this year we can all think of many ways to help others. It is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Helen Childress Sander is a native of Columbia. She taught school in Raleigh, N.C., and she and her husband, William A. Sander III, retired to Charleston 10 years ago.