Editor’s note: Renae Tolbert was a frequent contributor of writing and photography to aNewsCafe.com. She died on March 26 following complications from cancer. ANC will publish some of her work in the coming months in memory and honor of Renae. This encore piece was originally published on March 10, 2014.“Go! Get down there!” After 30 minutes, I caved in to the voice, grabbed my camera and took off to see the eagles at Turtle Bay. They were soaring high and majestically. This is why the Lord nudged me to get down here! He wanted to bless me today!
People often stop to ask what I’m photographing. When this man rode up on his bike and stopped, I expected to converse about our resident eagles, Liberty and Spirit. Instead, he looked at my camera, and asked, “Did you lose a camera like that down here?”
“Yes! On September 24th!”
“I have it.” He said with a smile.
My jaw dropped.
Four months earlier, while photographing the eagles, I ran into some ladies who recognized me from my Northern California Eagles Facebook page. I took a picture of us with my smaller camera on the tripod, so I laid my big expensive camera next to the cement wall. After the photo-shoot with friends, we went separate ways. I walked up the trail, and suddenly it hit me, My camera! I ran as fast as ever, only 15 minutes passed but it was already gone. Snatched by some thief! I was sure of it!
When this man claimed to have my camera, unsure if I believed him, I asked him to show me where he picked it up. He pointed to the exact spot. We exchanged names and I asked questions about the day he found it.
“Did you know there is a $250 reward? I’ve posted it in Craigslist and Facebook. It was on the news, in the paper and the pawnshops had flyers.”
“No, I don’t have internet or television.” He paused a few seconds. “Maybe I’ll buy a camp stove for my tent. It could keep me warm and I’d be able to eat hot food.”
“John, are you homeless?” His head lowered, “Yea.”
“Do you know the Lord?” Throwing his arms out wide he said, “What is God? Is he an IT? Is he a man in a robe and a long beard?” John grasped his own long beard, giving it a tug.
“Lord, please give me words! “Love.” God clearly whispered the word “love”.
“John, God is love. When you see people loving people, that is the spirit of God.” When he looked up, a tear slid from under his sunglasses.
We arranged to meet the next day at Turtle Bay Café. “Is there anything I can bring you?” “Nah, I’m ok.” The tear indicated he needed much, yet asked for nothing.
Two friends and my husband went with me to meet him at 1 pm. John was right on time. He pulled up on his bicycle with a smile.
He placed a blue denim bag on the table as if presenting me with a gift. I removed the camera. It was wrapped in a towel and in a plastic bag. “To keep the dust out.” he told me. The straps were folded and secured with twisty ties. He stored it this way in his tent for 4 months!
I asked why he didn’t sell it, he shrugged, “I knew it belonged to someone and eventually I’d find them.” He said he rode his bike twice a month on the Dana to Downtown trail, keeping his eye out for someone who resembled a photographer.
I gave him a bag with home-made cookies and The New Testament Message. Then I handed him the envelope with the reward. Several other friends donated gift cards and money for me to give him. With hand to heart he said, “You say what a blessing this is for you. But, this is a blessing to me. Thank you.”
I pray he realizes how much Jesus loves him. No doubt he witnessed the love of God the day we met at Turtle Bay.
John may have lost his home, a closet full of clothes and his car. But he did not lose his character, honesty, integrity, respect, kindness and responsibility. He was articulate, educated and honoring. That is what defines him. I am honored to have met John.
Renae Tolbert lived in Redding where she enjoyed outdoor photography, writing short stories, biking and hiking. She considered herself a photographer first, writer second. Her passion was to bring joy and beauty into people’s lives by sharing what she saw through her camera lens. Renae died on March 26, 2019.