Tona Herndon, 78, was visiting her husband’s grave just two weeks after his death. Grief-stricken, she was caught completely unawares when a mugger accosted her as she was getting into her car. The man got away with her purse and about $700.
However, the police caught up with him not long after and Herndon’s belongings were returned. Along with the arrest, there was a news report that put out a mugshot of the man.
One of the viewers of the television news show that night happened to be 15-year-old Christian Lunsford, the man’s son. When he saw the photo, he knew instantly who it was.
His parents had divorced when he was just a toddler, and he only heard from his father sporadically. His father had been in and out of jail several times, and so over the years, Christian and his father were far from close.
The last time he had been in touch with Christian was a few weeks before he saw the police report—his father had wanted to give him $250 to cover a school marching band trip that Christian had his heart set on attending.
“There are times when I feel really low, like, ‘Is that going to be me, am I going to end up like that?'” Christian told CBS.
But that wasn’t the path Christian wanted to go down. So after he saw the police report, he reached out to get in contact with Herndon and make amends.
Christian asked to meet the woman in a parking lot, and she just thought, “What’s going on here?”
“I’m sorry about what happened,” Christian said, pulling out the $250 his father had given him. He wanted to repay his father’s debt. He wasn’t sure if the money belonged to Herndon or how his father got it, but he wanted to give back to her in some way.
“It needed to be done. She needed an apology from somebody. If I didn’t apologize, who would?” Christian said.
Herndon didn’t know what to expect, but upon learning that this was the son of the man who robbed her, and that he was reaching out to make amends, she was deeply touched. “I forgive you,” she replied.
Then she took the money Christian handed to her. “I accept this,” she said.
But then, she said, “I want you to take your band trip,” and handed the money back.
“Are you sure?” he asked. She was sure.
“It was a joy to do that,” Herndon said.
“I thought that was so, so precious,” she said. “Any 15-year-old boy who has that much conscience is extraordinary.”
The heart and courage Christian had in reaching out to Herndon created a healing experience for them both.
“I feel more like my life still has a purpose,” said the grieving widow.
Christian said, “You’re not who your parents are. Even if they do raise you, you can become whoever you want to be.”