Young Christian Lunsford was disgusted when he saw the TV report about the mugging of seventy-eight-year-old Tona Herndon of Bethany, Oklahoma, robbed while visiting the gravesite of her husband of 60 years, who had died just two weeks earlier. It wasn’t merely that the mugger took a purse and $700 from a vulnerable and grieving woman, but that the culprit was Christian’s father. He had been quickly arrested, and his mug shot, shown on TV, was all-too-familiar to his fifteen-year-old son. Christian’s parents divorced when he was two, and his contact with his father had been minimal as the elder Lunsford kept ending up in jail. The teen had recently heard from his dad, however, when he sent Christian $250 to pay for his participation in a school band trip.
The latest crime, however, moved Christian to do something exemplary. He contacted Tona Herndon and asked her to meet him in a church parking lot. When she did, he mugged her too, as a tribute to his father.
No, that’s not what happened: I was just messing with you.
What really happened is this: Christian apologized to Ms. Herndon for his father’s crime. “It needed to be done,” he told reporters. “She needed an apology from somebody. If I didn’t apologize, who would?” Then, to make amends, Christian gave her the $250 his father had sent him, though he was really looking forward to the band trip and she had no claim on the money, saying that it came from his father, and that as far as he was concerned, she should have it rather than him. He told Tona that he would not feel right profiting from money that might have been hers.
Tona accepted the money from the boy, told him that his father was scum, and that he still owed her another $550 bucks.
No, that’s not what she did. I’m sorry—I keep thinking about all the ways this story could have gone horribly wrong. It did not, however. It went gloriously, ethically, right.
“I accepted the money back,” Tona says. And then gave she have the $250 right back to him, saying “I want you to take your band trip.”
“I feel more like my life still has a purpose,” Tona said later. Yes, that’s what being kind and generous to others, especially as encouragement to a youth trying to become a caring and responsible adult, will do for you. After that story, I feel like my life still has a purpose too.
No, I’m messing with you again: I’m in D.C. watching as the government prepares to shut down, and I’m bitter and forlorn.
Christian and Tona remind me that there is hope, and that we can learn to respect and care about each other, even sacrifice for each other, with some good role models like them to show the way. They do indeed make me feel like my life still has a purpose.
I hope you feel the same.
Facts and Graphic: CBS News