The Human Chord

Rocking on through the decades

By Albert H. Fulcher

Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010

Living on a one-acre lot in the canyons of San Diego, frequent trips to the landfill are routine to Ed and Lourdes Sandford. For Lourdes, these trips are always a reminder of how wasteful Americans can be. A native of Mexico, Lourdes’ life has a special bond between our borders.

Very active in her church, she does as much work as she can to help those without, both here and across la línea. Lourdes sees a goldmine whenever she goes to the landfill. Most of the materials found there can potentially build and refurbish homes of the poor. One Saturday in 2008, Lourdes and Ed found a treasure not measured by its weight in gold.

Leaving the landfill, Lourdes saw a young couple unloading trash. Two old rocking chairs sitting next to the truck are what really caught her eye. Though old, needing some repair, one in particular captivated her. On the end of each armrest were lion heads and two dolphins springing up the back, evidently hand carved. Lourdes asked Ed to stop. She wanted the chairs and could not bear to see them end up in a landfill. Ed told her to go over and speak with them. They left with both rockers in the back of their truck, heading for their new home.

Ed promised to repair the rockers in his workshop.

More than a year passed.

Ed was watching an episode of “Antiques Roadshow,” when he heard that you could usually find the origins of antiques by looking underneath. Ed and Lourdes pulled the rockers out and turned them over. They did not find the information they were looking for, but what they did find was about to take them on an awe-inspiring journey.

Underneath was a very old yellow, cracked piece of paper. Lourdes carefully peeled the paper off the rocker. Written was “This chair belongs to Donna Madsen, granddaughter of Pearle L. Tracy Stoke, Swea City, Minnesota.”

In agreement, Ed began to search to see if they could locate Madsen. It took some doing as the town was so small, it did not even have a newspaper. Ed contacted the nearest town with one and a reporter found one Madsen in that town. With that number, they found Donna Madsen’s cousin. She had moved to Fairmont, Minnesota. Ed and Lourdes called her that evening.

One simple phone call brought bewilderment, wonder and tears of joy. Donna had not seen or heard of those rockers in 25 years. Bought at an auction in Swea City in the early 1900s, the 100 year old chairs, had been a part of her family and something that she and her sister had wonderful memories of with their grandmother. Following grandmother, the chairs travelled to San Diego when she came to live with her sister in 1940. Donna said she and her sister Marge put their names on the rockers in the early 1950s. Knowing their attachment to the rockers, her aunt had them put their names on them as their grandmother’s health was failing. That is the last time she recalls seeing the chairs.

Ed and Lourdes offered to get the chairs to her. Donna had moved to a much smaller place and did not have the room for them, but thankful that the chairs had been rescued and found a home in such a thoughtful family.

Not willing to give up, Ed and Lourdes promised to keep the chairs for her until she could find someone in the family that wanted them.

Six months later, they received a phone call from Donna’s nephew, Mickey. He lived in San Francisco and was thrilled with the prospect of having his great-grandmother’s rocking chairs. Mickey came to San Diego, checkbook in hand to pick up the chairs. He understood their monetary value. Ed and Lourdes refused money. They never had these valuable antiques appraised. Their reward was the knowledge that the rockers had found their home. It was pure. Generosity guided their actions and they received riches of the heart.

Making new friends, Donna Madsen and her sister Marge sent letters and photos. One note ended with a quote from Hebrews 10:24, “Think of ways to encourage one another to outburst of love and good deeds.” Ed and Lourdes lived this in their actions.

Unselfish generosity is a precious gift that one can give every day. It can be anything from downloading an mp3 from iTunes to helping the devastated in Haiti or helping a friend or stranger in a time of need. There are so many things that can be done that cannot be measured by money.

There is a little of Ed and Lourdes in all of us, an intricate thread in the human chord.

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