I recently flipped through some heart-breaking photos of refugees escaping war-torn areas of the Middle East. I studied the faces of the women and children. They looked defeated, exhausted, tired and hungry. The grown-ups and some of the older children carried pillowcase-sized bags containing all of the possessions they were able to bring. Mostly, I imagined, blankets and clothing. It made me think – hard.
What if I lost everything? My family and friends. My home. My car. My job, savings and security. I let my mind absorb the pain and shock of that for a moment. Everything I rely on and everyone I love wiped out in an act of war, a flash flood, typhoon or tornado. I closed my eyes and took a moment to feel the magnitude of that emptiness.
Then I imagined getting it all back. Everything restored, just as it was! There was no greater feeling in the world. I just lost everything -- and I just got it all back! No more or less than before -- just what I started with and assumed I would always have.
This little reflection took place at 4:00 AM. I often use this time to write when my mind refuses to shut down, and last night was one of those nights. My hubby’s wallet had turned up missing earlier in the day, and we’d searched everywhere. Now, losing a wallet, it could be argued, is certainly not losing everything. But the thought of replacing the contents – driver’s license, military ID, VA and insurance cards, debit, credit and ATM cards – felt like a big deal. We had driven all over town, searching stores and parking lots, re-tracing our steps throughout the afternoon – not easy when your short-term memory keeps getting shorter and shorter!
By this morning we’d abandoned any hope of finding it. We decided the first priority was to replace his driver’s license. As we sat in the DMV waiting for his number to be announced, I received a phone call from a woman named Sarah. She lived a few blocks away, she explained. Her 16 year-old son, Jared, had found the missing wallet by the side of the road. Being an honest young man, he told his mom, and being a thoughtful person herself, she wanted to return it to us safely.
As the weight lifted from our shoulders and a sense of relief washed over us, I thought of the 4:00 AM blog that I had begun writing earlier this morning. What if I lost everything and then got it back? It was only a wallet, and we weren’t any better or worse off than we were two days ago. Things were exactly the same. The difference was all between my ears. I felt so fortunate! Thanks to the generosity of two former strangers, those dark clouds of stress were replaced with a lightness of spirit and a renewed faith in the basic goodness of humanity.
So as we celebrate this upcoming day of Thanksgiving, Sarah and Jared will certainly be in our thoughts. We cannot thank them enough for their honesty and kindness, and we wish them every happiness.
Our hearts also go out to the millions of refugees who have truly lost everything – their homes, livelihoods, family and security. Most will never get their former lives back again. May our hearts open in generosity to relieve their suffering by providing the basic human needs of food, shelter, safety and dignity.
There is much work to be done. For today, I'm feeling thankful for my wonderful husband, family and friends, good neighbors, and a happy ending to our own minor drama. Happy Thanksgiving to all!