What are the ingredients for a stressful day? What portends it? It started off very well. A quiet, prayerful morning. Beautiful weather. Driving to the bookstore (Barnes&Noble) and movie theater (Landmark) complex a couple of miles away. Buying tickets for two movies to see and then review for St. Anthony Messenger Magazine or National Catholic Reporter or other outlets. Next, a non-fat latte in the Barnes & Noble cafe’. Browsed for a few moments before the first film started. And on the way out, somehow, I dropped my keys. I mean, I had a bag. My wallet and keys weigh more than a pound. I have a long chain dangling off it and a St. Paul medal (thanks a lot, St. Paul.) What was I thinking? I have no idea.
I take my lunch with me (they don’t sell diet food at the theater) so I went from one theater to the other to see the films, stopped in the ladies’, and then to the car. As I approached the car I started digging in my bag (portable pit, true). No keys. The water bottle weighed down the bag so I hadn’t missed the weight of keys. I frantically checked through the car windows; had I locked the keys in the car (I have done this twice in the last year or so)? No, I had them when I bought the tickets. I started getting more frantic; but knew I had to keep my cool.
I began praying to my guardian angel as I mentally went through the process of cancelling cards and getting a new driver’s license. Then I began bargaining with God, “Come on, God. You have saved me from this so many times. Don’t let this be the time when I really lose it all.” At the theater concierge desk the manager told me no one had turned in any keys with a wallet attached. He asked one of the employees to go with me to search the theaters where I had been sitting. He was so kind. I checked the trash bins (yuck, but it had to be done). Nothing.
Next I made the rounds in Barnes & Noble, up, down, nothing. Then the theater concierge suggested checking with the mall security across the street. Although I protested that I hadn’t gone there (I can’t stand that mall actually; it is not set out well and doesn’t have anything a nun needs. Hmm. Oh, except a See’s chocolate shop but I must stay away from those.) But I trekked over there and left my name and number.
I returned to the concierge at the theater for another try; this time a young woman accompanied me. She told me, “You know, I always think that something happens for a reason. Who knows? Maybe if you had not been delayed here, something might have happened. God must have wanted you to wait here.” I looked at her with amazement; she was teaching me like it was the most normal thing in the world to speak this way. I thought to myself, “Who are you? My guardian angel?”
Back to Barnes & Noble, resigned to the consequences of my own distraction and habitual misplacing of keys, and feeling more calm. I called one of the Sisters with a spare car key and asked if she would come and meet me. I sat on a bench, leafing through a magazine, waiting for her call when she reached the parking garage. I was decompressing, breathing, and wondering, “What is God trying to tell me? I think God is trying to get my attention; God is telling me to pay attention, to take care, to be intentional, thoughtful.”
Then it came to me: “You didn’t leave your name and number with the service desk at Barnes & Noble.” So I took the escalator downstairs and waited for someone to serve me. I had been there earlier but one young man went through a box and said the keys were not there. This time it was a different young man. His eyes brightened! He said, “Oh, yes. I have to check the safe.” They were not there, but meanwhile another sales assistant came, reached under the counter, and voila’! My keys and wallet!” “Someone turned them in” the young man said. “You know, people do that. This week someone found a $100 bill on the floor and turned it in, too.”
It was hard not to cry with relief. I blessed them effusively – they were so kind. Then I went upstairs and thanked the theater manager for all their help.
Now I would have to face my community; they know how I am with those keys. Yet even they were kind and merely smiled rather than the usual teasing. I thanked Sr Hosea for bringing the spare key even though she arrived at the garage just as my keys were returned to me.
My heart was slowly returning to normal.
So, what did I learn from this seemingly futile exercise?
1. People are good; I believe in that people want to do the right thing.
2. God wants me to pay attention more; to slow down.
3. Like the young woman said, it was providence; for some reason I was meant to spend an extra two hours running around the complex, delaying my getting back on the road.
4. It was an experience in grace shown through the kindness of many people, all unknown to me and perhaps to one another.
Yesterday’s Gospel reading was from Mark (7:31-37). It was the story of a miracle: Jesus opened the ears of a man who could not hear or speak. Yesterday was a miracle for me, a small one in relation to all the miracles people need every day.
Thank you, God, for miracles and the goodness of people. Grant people the miracles they need, even before they ask or know they need them.
(And the last thing? I did my exercise! To the point of perspiring – profusely. No exercise machine tonight! Ah, such a small silver lining but I was grateful for this, too.)