News of the theft and eventual return of the Strawberry Creek Inn Buddha covered by the Town Crier in the Dec. 19 and Dec. 26 issues made newspapers and online outlets across the country. Inn owners Ian Scott and Rodney Williams are amazed by the response the story has received.
As reported previously, the Buddha was taken on Dec. 14 and the thief, at the insistence of a parent, returned the Buddha to the inn on Dec. 23. The Buddha was apparently given as a gift to the grandparent.
Williams was surprised when representatives of the Tzu Chi Foundation in San Dimas showed up at the inn. “They came out about a week ago and just showed up one day,” he said. “A member had seen the article in the paper and they were touched by my willingness to be forgiving and compassionate, and also by the person who had the [the thief] bring the Buddha back,” Williams said. “They took photos, left books for our rooms and then left.”
According to Williams, “We told them about the [parent] making them bring [the Buddha] back and they wanted to give a gift of a Buddha to the [thief] so he could give it to his grandparent and they also wanted to give us one.”
Tzu Chi representatives returned on Monday, Jan. 6, with television cameras and a satellite, as well as gifts for the inn and the grandmother. The father and son were not available, but the grandmother was and made the visit to the inn.
“They presented each of us with pastries from JJ’s Bakery in LA, and a Lucite-lighted Buddha that was worth about $350. Apparently, 70 volunteers pitched in $10 each. Then they interviewed both of us,” said Williams. “It kind of floored me. For me, I guess I was really impressed that they felt it was a story that merited a two-hour drive. It also impressed me on what they were focused on. They were focused on the father taking responsibility and his effort to teach his son about ethics and my willingness to forgive in not throwing the kid in jail.”
The group spent a lot of time at the inn and indicated that they planned to come back and rent out the entire inn. Williams is still somewhat shocked by the events surrounding the Buddha and the response they have received.
“They described themselves as ‘action Buddhism’ or some term like that. They do a lot of work in prisons and with health care, education and disaster relief. Their whole thing, from what I gathered, is that one of their philosophies is that if more of us did what the father and I did, fewer people would go off track. That is their idea of making our society better.”