The sun gently played in the trees as we pulled into the driveway at my parents’ home on pristine Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. My parents opened the door, jubilantly spilling out in their excitement to see the dogs.
We had always loved taking Briggs to the lake. He loved the freedom of running around, sticking his nose under trees and into roots, and barking at the fish in the water. Now, with two dogs, the excitement was doubled. Laughing, we watched as they raced down one side of the house and zipped up the other.
Pulling us into hugs, my parents told us how proud they were of us, and that they didn’t know many people who would have pushed so hard to get their dog back. Happiness flooded me as I watched Briggs and the newly renamed rescue puppy, Blue, bark at each other.
“Let’s go down to the lake!”
I couldn’t wait to sit on the pier and dip my feet in the water, soak up the sun, and enjoy a well-deserved and way overdue day to relax. My parents’ house was situated on a large hill that overlooked the lake. As we got to the bottom, Briggs ran ahead and started tearing around by the lower deck and digging behind a tree.
“Is he…did he find it?” my dad asked.
All of a sudden, Briggs poked his head out triumphantly, all but grinning with his prize — a dilapidated flip-flop, hanging from his mouth. The flip-flop had floated to shore the summer before, and Briggs had claimed it as his own. Briggs knew he wasn’t allowed to chew on shoes, but because he’d found that one himself, it was his prize. He had guarded it all summer long the year before and was ecstatic to find it again.
“I’ll be damned,” my dad said.
“His flip-flop!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, and you’re not going to believe this, but I was cleaning up down here while he was gone, and I picked it up and started to throw it because I didn’t want it to upset you and Josh if you saw it without Briggs. I was going to let it float away to another shore, but I stopped. Something stopped me. Even though at the time I was convinced that Briggs was never coming back, I couldn’t throw it away, so I hid it behind the tree and under the deck, just in case.”
Tears pricked my eyes as I stared at Briggs and the broken flip-flop dangling happily from his mouth.
Faith is a strong word. My dad hadn’t believed Briggs would come home, yet somewhere deep down, his faith made him hesitate to throw away that old shoe-turned-dog-toy.
That’s the funny thing about faith — about hope. You just never know. Things may not work out the way that you expect. And there may not always be a happy ending.
But if you give up, if you walk away, if you turn your back, if you throw the flip-flop away, then you give away your faith — in yourself and in others.
I looked at Briggs and Blue and my happy, smiling husband, and I knew we’d all made it happen. One very determined couple and a community of people who had decided they wanted to believe.