Sunday, July 27, 2008

Postal Story of Redemption

Just spent the evening with a dear friend sorting out the stamp collection he inherited from his father. He was hoping to sell it off and raise some money to buy an item of interest that he could remember his dad by. As with most collections, there was a lot of material but not a lot of value. But the value isn't in the stamps anyway. The value was to his dad who in times of failing health had a much loved (obvious from the breadth of the collection) hobby to keep him company.

I know I promised to share my own story, I think it is something I should put right into my collection so that when my kids inherit it they can understand the value it had to me even if it doesn't bring in much monetary value (I am a realist). Stamp collecting for me brings me a lot of peace because God met me in a special way through reviving my childhood collection.

I collected when I was young, I think up until High School. My neighbour was a stamp dealer and the closest I had to a real mentor. I would take my little want lists over and he'd sell me stamps, but he'd also help me manage my collection and we were both part of the philatelic society. I have a newspaper clipping of a presentation of topical stamps I did with some classmates, boy was my haircut bad. One day I noticed that Mr. Henderson, my neighbour, had a bag where he was chucking damaged stamps. I asked him if I could have that bag to fill in some of the more pricey holes in my collection. He told me I could, but warned me that I would regret it if I did that. I didn't listen and found out he was right when one day I traded away my good copy of a stamp. I was very angry with myself over that.

I also had another incident that brought me shame. I had found a copy of a stamp that was misprinted. It was postmarked out of Bridgewater (known copies came out of Toronto) and was on piece (meaning it was still on the paper so that people could see I hadn't altered this stamp). In High School I had stopped collecting and was more interested in drugs at one point, hard up for money I remembered this stamp. There was a show that weekend so I took the stamp and sold it for drug money. I knew I got ripped off actually, but I just wanted the money.

I hadn't really thought of my collection for years when my folks forced me to take it to Ontario. There was a lot of shame tied up in it. A lot of old wounds. It reminded me a lot of my squandered youth. But my father-in-law was a big collector and I had trouble connecting with him. He wasn't sure a minister was a good match for his daughter. So I thought I should clean up my collection (getting rid of those damaged fillers) and show it to him.

I started in on the project and quickly realized how emotionally painful this was going to be. When I realized that the collection was representative of my past I felt like God was saying that we would work together to make this collection right. I spent many a tearful session going through my albums and thinking of how God's grace doesn't erase the past but helps heal the shame and regret.

What was amazing as well was how taking my collection back up gave me the connection with my father-in-law that was lacking. We began to work together and he helped me get my bearings in philatelic scene. He has since passed on, but I am grateful for the chance to share something with him and I think of him often when I'm sorting through piles of stamps.

I didn't think I'd do much more than clean up my old collection. I guess I thought I'd give it to Sharon's dad or something. But tonight I found a few things from my friend's dad's collection that should live on in my collection. The stamps might not be valuable in a monetary sense, but they sure are valued.

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