As the train pulls into the station, my husband reaches into his shirt pocket for the Eurail pass that we have been using to travel around Europe for the past month. Today is the last day we can use it. We will catch a train to Zurich, just to see the Alpes. We will then take an overnight train to Paris, thus saving on hotel and from Paris we will take a plane to Israel. Problem is, the pass is not in his pocket!. There are no identifying information on it. Anyone can use it to travel anywhere in Europe. He frantically looks in his other pockets and the accessible parts of our luggage, but the train comes and goes. As the non-french speaking partner, I stay at the station with our luggage while he goes back to our hotel in search of the missing pass. An hour or so later he comes back, waving the pass as he approaches. After searching the room at the little pension where we had been staying, he goes back to the restaurant where we ate the night before. The restaurant is closed but the owner is sweeping the sidewalk. After hearing about the lost pass, he retrieves it from his cash register where he has kept it safely. Apparently, Ben had dropped it when he went to pay the bill.
Act 2, The Market, New Delhi, India, April 1988
I reach in my purse for my credit card to pay for a pair of sandals and it's not there! Quickly Ben and I retrace our steps mentally and realize that the last time we used the card was over an hour ago at a restaurant for lunch. We race back to the hotel where the restaurant was located, all the while imagining the worst. A quick inquiry brings out the waiter who had served us, bearing the credit card on a silver tray as if it were the last course of our meal. All is well!
Act 3, A Friend's House, Barquisimeto, Venezuela, December 1998
Baby Kent needs changing, so I go searching for my backpack to get a diaper. He is our fourth child and we have done away with the niceties of carrying diaper bags and other baby paraphernalia when we travel. I have been using my rugged backpack as an all in one diaper bag/ purse/carry on. That means that it also contains all of our passports, marriage license and birth certificates. We are on a trip with several stops along the way. The last one will be the American Embassy in Caracas to get Kent's passport. The last time I had the backpack was on the taxi we took from the bus terminal to my friend's house. But we arrived a couple of hours ago and until I noticed the need for the diaper change, I did not realize the bag was missing. When you have four kids under the age of eight and have been travelling all day, you tend to misplace things. Ben and my friend's husband drive back to the terminal in search of the missing backpack. The chances of finding it are pretty slim. No one wants to think of the consequences of losing all those documents and having to replace them. An hour later, they return. Ben is empty handed. But he quickly turns around to show the backpack! At the bus terminal they are told that the taxi we took was a "pirate" one, meaning a guy working on his own and not part of an official line. No one knows him and doesn't think he is coming back to the terminal that night. As they are leaving the parking lot, the driver does come back. He has not seen the bag and since leaving us at our destination, has given rides to several other people. Ben still inspects the back seat where I had been sitting and sure enough the back pack is under the seat, untouched.
I don't tell these stories to brag about my travels or admit to my distraction and absent-mindedness. To me they are examples of moments where I could lose but instead found hope in the goodness of humanity. They remind me that most people, regardless of geography and circumstances, will do the right thing. And that is a nice reminder every once in a while in a world where humanity gets a bad rap because of the actions of a minority. We need to hire a better PR person to counter every story of human failure with one much more powerful of love and kindness which is out there. Maybe then entire businesses such as some reality shows would not be dedicated to showing some of us behaving badly and the rest of us watching and drawing pleasure from it.
Act 4, gas station, Cedar Park, Texas, November 2011
I arrive at the University of Texas for a day-long seminar. My cell phone rings and it is the secretary of the elementary school where I work. She tells me that someone brought my wallet to the school because they found it at the gas station where I had stopped earlier that morning to put air in my tires. The kind neighbor then took it to my house and gave it to my husband who brought it to me.