This is a story about something that happened during our recent stay in Sedona for the completion of the Teacher of Pupils Training Program and other CCC activities.
On the final Monday, James piled a group of teachers and pupils into a van and took them up to visit the Grand Canyon. When they got back late that night, I picked them up at the car rental place.
The next day it was my birthday, and James said, “How about I take you out to Coffee Pot for a birthday breakfast?” Coffee Pot is one of my favourite restaurants in Sedona, so I quickly got ready. The last thing I did was pick up my purse, which I instantly realized was a lot lighter than usual. I looked in it and saw that my wallet was missing. We hunted everywhere and couldn’t find it. James asked where I had seen it last, and I said at the car rental place, in my purse in the trunk of our car. Then James said, “You know, when I was rearranging things in the car, your purse fell out, and I picked it up and put it back in the trunk. There was the answer: My wallet had obviously fallen out of my purse and was left lying there in the car rental parking lot, just next to the sidewalk.
So much for breakfast at Coffee Pot! Instead, we went to the car rental place, where there was no sign of the wallet. Next we went to the police station, where it also wasn’t! Then we called the credit card company to alert them to what had happened. Finally, I called my daughter back home in Ottawa to let her know and ask her to be sure to answer the home phone, just in case.
I have written before about being a worrier; well, this sure was a perfect opportunity to let worry take me over. After all, if I didn’t recover my wallet, it would be very inconvenient and time-consuming to deal with replacing the lost items, as well as costly, since there was a lot of money in it. However, something else happened. Worry was prowling around the edges, as well as anger and judgement, but stronger than all of those was a sense that it was really no big deal.
By this time, we were already late to pick up a couple of Course companions who were going to come on a birthday hike with us. Because they were recent graduates of our Teacher of Pupils Training Program, I was aware that I wanted to be an example to them of how to go through something like losing a wallet. That was extra motivation to approach this in a healed way. As James and I drove to pick them up, I practiced the thought that I was not a body tied to world of money, not a victim of what had happened. It was, after all, only money and it would not be the end of the world if I never got my wallet back. I felt a sense of peace and trust come over me, even if I wasn’t totally reconciled with the idea of the lost wallet.
After we picked up our friends, we headed off to meet the other hikers. When we arrived at the pick-up spot, there was a whole group of people with birthday hats on their heads, waiting to wish me Happy Birthday. As soon as I caught sight of them, all concern over the missing wallet vanished. All I could think was, “This is all that’s important… all this love. A lost wallet means nothing compared to this!”
Two days later, there was still no word or sign of my wallet, and I accepted that I would not see it again. It wasn’t resignation that I was feeling, but more a simple and peaceful acceptance. I was really clear that my happiness and wellbeing didn’t depend on my wallet. I even thought that, if the person needed the money to the point of stealing it, then it was okay for him or her to have it. Later that day, a friend told me that he was sure that my wallet would be returned to me, and I replied, “You know, it really doesn’t matter. It’s okay if I don’t get it back”––and I genuinely meant it! (Those of you who know how much money concerns have been a part of my life will appreciate the enormity of my thinking this way)
I returned home later to an urgent message from my daughter, who was calling to tell me that a woman had called her to say they had found my wallet and I could pick it up the next morning in a local restaurant where the finder worked in the kitchen!
As we drove to pick up my wallet the next morning, James and I were wondering if the person had kept the money or left it in the wallet. I decided that I wouldn’t even look in the wallet when he gave it to me; having it back would be enough for me. When we met, the man explained to me that he and his wife found the wallet when they had rented a car to drive out of state. They had to wait till they got back to let me know about it, which explained the delay. We chatted a bit and I gave him a thank you card with some money in it as a token of my gratitude. Just as I was leaving, I asked him if I could give him a hug. He said “Sure,” so I gave him a huge grateful and tearful hug and then we said goodbye. My meeting with the man had truly been a holy encounter, and I felt full of joy and love.
Over the three days between losing the wallet and then regaining it, I could feel the pull of conflicting thoughts and feelings within me. On the one hand, I had moments of feeling angry, judgemental, and biased toward whoever had my wallet and also worried about what was going to happen. On the other hand, I had moments (more, thank God!) of peace and forgiveness. In retrospect, I saw how easy it would have been to give in to those unloving thoughts, and I was grateful that, thanks to all I’ve learned and practiced with the Course, I didn’t let them take hold.
I think that this whole experience was an example of miracles in action. (Given the way I would have reacted in the past, it had to be a miracle to begin with that shifted my perception of the situation and everyone and everything involved!) Every encounter I had––with the rental car agents, the staff in the police station, the credit card company person––was a loving and friendly one. My friends coming out to wish me a happy birthday––even if some of them weren’t even coming on the hike!––offered me a gift, a sign of their love for me. By forgiving the person who had my wallet (even if he or she had kept it) and then being so grateful to him when he did return it, I think I offered him a miracle. When he gave me back the wallet––with all the money in it!––, I thought how easy it would have been for him to keep it, or, at least, the money. He didn’t have to return it, but he did, offering me a gift of loving kindness. I don’t know if this one counts, but I even wonder if my letting go (of the wallet, the money, the credit cards, the identification, the photos of my kids, as well, of course, of my unloving thoughts) allowed the wallet to be returned to me. What I do know is that the experience was a truly blessed one, and still would have been blessed, even if I hadn’t recovered my wallet!