Parable of the Lost Wallet

I lost my wallet today.

I put it down to middle aged amnesia. For those of you not yet in your middle years, this is a condition that begins to take root in your late 30s, after which it's a long slide to drooling. It starts with misplacing your keys, but being able to retrace your steps, because they're still in a logical spot; progresses through putting said keys in the freezer, thinking "I won't forget they're there!" (and promptly forgetting); and continues through the stage I visited today: setting my wallet down on the trunk lid of my car while I affixed Amy's bicycle (which I had just taken to Sunset Cycles for a chain replacement) to the bike rack, then forgetting I had put it there and driving off with the wallet still on the lid. It fell off a couple of blocks later, as I turned a corner, but I didn't know it at the time. In fact, I didn't know it until I had gotten home, put the bike away in the garage, congratulated myself for remembering to close the garage door, then driven to the park to pick blackberries, where I suddenly realized that my shorts were lighter than they should be.

I spent the next hour and a half frantically driving up and down Keizer Road, then walking it to be sure, finally going into Bank of America to cancel my debit card, then walking back a different way (just in case the wallet had somehow stayed on the car all the way to my home then back down the hill and through the neighborhood to the park entrance), when my phone rang, and it was Alex, binge-watching Supernatural  on our Netflix account, telling me someone had found my wallet and brought it to our house. He put her on the phone, and she explained she had found it at the corner of Bethany and Laidlaw, but not finding a phone number in it, had brought it to the address on my driver's license. I thanked her profusely, then called Amy, who had just gotten home and given the woman a jar of peach jam as a token of our gratitude.

There was still inconvenience to deal with: walking back home, collecting the wallet, then driving down to the bank where they could finally issue me a temporary card (now that I had my ID back) to replace the one I had just canceled. But that inconvenience was nothing next to what would've been involved with canceling and replacing my three other Visa cards, not to mention my license and all my shopper cards, plus the cash that was in the wallet.

Apart from the frustration with my absent-minded brain, I now find myself smack dab in the middle of a parable. Here's how Jesus tells the story:

[W]hat woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, "Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost." Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:8-10, NRSV)

 Apart from the "sinner who repents" bit, this story speaks brilliantly about a common occurrence: misplacing something important. I hate to think how much of my life (and this actually goes back to before middle age, so I can't blame it on that) has been wasted searching for items that have gone missing. When they eventually turn up, it often seems like it's in a place I'd already looked, leading me to speculate that poltergeists may have been involved. They're also likely to show up someplace they clearly do not belong (freezer, anyone?). If they don't turn up, I will sometimes make do with something else--though if it's a list or note that I misplaced, and I'm trying to reconstruct it from the same memory that forget where I set it down, I am totally screwed--or, barring that, improvise. Whatever may work-around involves, it's rife with frustration. Grrrrrr. Stupid memory.

I completely get the "turn the house upside down" piece of the parable. The other part that I understand, but have never implemented, is throwing a party upon the recovery of the lost item which, if it is in fact a coin, could very well cost as much as said coin is worth, so really? But then, if you hadn't found it, you'd still be out the money, but no party, so I guess the woman comes out ahead, right? Anyway, once the wallet was recovered and I had my new temporary debit card, I headed over to the QFC for a nice beer and some fruit, thrilled that I could pay for it all and legally drive it home.

I take so much for granted: the power to post my thoughts online whenever I have the time; the ability to deposit checks, withdraw cash, and pay for groceries using a rectangular piece of plastic; the freedom to travel to the bank, the store, the park in a gasoline-burning vehicle; and most of all, living in a place blessed with honest people.

That is the real miracle here: that someone found my wallet and, at great inconvenience to herself, brought it to my home, expecting nothing in return (though, according to Amy, she was very happy to receive the jam); and that all my cash was still in there. We don't know her name. Amy speculates that she was in her late 50s and possibly Austrian. An immigrant doing me a solid plugs me into another parable, that of the Good Samaritan, but I'm not going there now. I'm just delighted to have been blessed with the kindness of strangers.

That's an experience that I've had at many times in my life. Whether it's someone I just met on the train offering me a ride to my dorm as I arrive at grad school for the first time, or a semi driver giving me and my fiancĂ©e a ride to the nearest town when our car broke down, or a man in a farmhouse driving me to Les Schwab to buy a new tire for my car while his wife entertains my wife and children, or people on the street offering directions when my map is out, or cyclists taking a break from their workouts to replace the inner tube on my bike for me, I have been blessed with kind strangers more times than I can count.

I've got a lot to celebrate tonight. No, I never made it to the park to pick the blackberries (tomorrow, maybe), but I've got my wallet, my cash, and just one card replacement to deal with. And someone I never got to meet went out of her way to help me out. Plus I got to live out another parable at the same time. Bonus!

I should totally have a party to celebrate. When you comin' over?


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