It was the last thing he expected that day. The stranger stood on their front porch, holding a small box.
It had belonged to his father so many years ago … and it had finally made its way home. It was beyond anything he could have imagined. He dropped to his knees and started crying.
Justin wished he could say he was like any other 15-year-old, but that just wasn’t true.
While he watched his friends play sports or complain about dad jokes, he could only sit there clueless and a bit sad. He had never known his father. All he had were some photos, stories, and an old box of treasures.
His mom had it worse though. When he was just a newborn, she was the one who had got the horrible news her husband had fallen in war and was now a single mother.
She did everything she could to make sure he was happy and safe. But there was an upcoming day that he just could stay quiet about anymore.
Justin sorted through his box of memories – dog tags, letters, and other keepsakes.
Holding them was as close as he would ever get to holding his dad’s hand or giving him a hug. It had taken him days of building up the courage, but he was finally ready to ask his mom something important.
“Is there anything else?” he asked. His mom looked at him, confused. “For my birthday. I was hoping there might be something else dad had?”
Something flashed behind his mom’s eyes. Pain? Definitely sadness. But there was another thing he couldn’t quite place. “Maybe,” she said, and quickly left the room.
The mood carried over for days. Justin knew it was going to be a delicate subject.
For years, she had gifted him something that had belonged to his dad. They would cry, laugh, and talk. However, a few years ago, the special gifts stopped and regular ones took their place. Anytime he asked, she would avoid the subject.
One morning, she sat at the kitchen counter, crying into her coffee. “
What’s wrong?” he asked, giving her a big hug. She looked at him with bloodshot eyes. “I’m so sorry, baby … I sold it.” Justin stared back, trying to understand what was happening. “I sold it years ago.”
There was indeed one more gift that had been meant for him.
But things had been difficult just after his dad had passed away. At one point, the only way his mom was able to put food on the table was by selling the valuable keepsake. It was long gone. Justin felt his own tears fall.
He wasn’t angry – depressed, yes. But not angry. He gave his mom a big hug and they cried together. It would be okay.
A normal gift would still be wonderful because it was from her. His birthday finally rolled around. As he ate his special-day pancakes, he noticed something weird.
His mom answered a string of text messages with a confused face.
When asked what was going on, her only answer was, “Not sure.” Even when the house was filled with friends and family, she still glanced at her phone. When a new face appeared at the front door, she pulled Justin over to meet the stranger.
The bearded man held out a small box. “My name’s Kyle. I understand it’s your birthday. I wanted to give you this.”
Justin tore open the paper. It was a set of keys. Kyle pointed to a car in the driveway. “It’s for you. It was your dad’s car.” His mom gripped the doorway as Justin fell to his knees in tears. But the car wasn’t the only surprise.
He rushed out to the 99 Toyota Celica convertible. The sleek black frame shined in the sunlight.
Inside was fresh new leather with red, white, and blue stripe accents. “But…this is brand new,” Justin said. He and his mother listened to Kyle’s story in awe.
It turns out his mom had reached out on Facebook to see if someone could track down a Celica – any one, anything close would have been great.
But the stranger asked for the VIN and took it upon himself to track down the original. The problem was it was in really bad shape.
The process turned into a frantic rush. Between the man’s own money, donations, and volunteer mechanics, the group of veteran supporters hurried to try and get the amazing gift finished for Justin’s 15th birthday.
They also did everything they could to keep it a surprise for his mom too. Justin slid into the driver’s seat and felt something new.
No words would come out. It was just a rush of intense emotions. His dad had been sitting in that very spot.
Justin thought of all the places his father had traveled to and memories that had been formed on the road. His plan? He was going to visit them all … as well as add some new memories of his own.