Yesterday I traveled home to BC from visiting family and friends in the States. Fortunately, the flight was not full at all, and I discovered that it's possible to lay down completely on three seats with my toddler on my chest after finally getting him to give in and nap. We were both excited to see Henry David, so it was a bit of a bummer to arrive 30 minutes early and have to head down to baggage claim alone, knowing he would not have arrived.
It was an even bigger bummer to discover that one of my suitcases was missing. It was the one full of medicine, our camera, my jewelry, and all my toiletries among other things. I stood in the Southwest baggage office waiting for them to file a report and realized that after the three hour drive home that night I'd have to run out and buy enough supplies to make me presentable for a meeting I had in Vancouver the next day. I was frustrated and my normal melancholy self that assumes the worst and fails to see the positive. I was trying to be gracious but was clearly failing.
They called the airport of my departure to no avail and had no idea where it could have gone. They suggested we wait another three hours for the next flight to see if it had been placed on that one. I declined, knowing we still had a long drive ahead of us and asked about shipping options. Since it would have to cross a border, they told me it could get stuck in customs for weeks. So we made arrangements to have it delivered to a place in Washington near the border and they prepared a travel voucher for me for my trouble. Then the agent got an idea.
She asked me if my bag looked like one she had by the door. She wondered if the party that owned that bag had accidentally taken mine since they had picked up the other nine bags they had checked but had left that one. She tracked down the guy's daughter who called her dad who was still thankfully on airport property. He said he would double check their bags to make sure they belonged to the right people and come to get his bag. He came and said that they had looked, but that all the bags they had belonged to them. I felt like a deflated balloon as that last shred of hope disappeared and I tried to accept that I'd be going home without my suitcase. I felt really vulnerable knowing all it contained and realizing that my privacy could be invaded more than a bit if someone found it and opened it. My husband, our little boy, and I walked to the parking garage and I tried to believe that it would "all be okay" like he said. But inside I was not the most positive redhead on the planet, despite the travel voucher in my pocket.
And then, as we were paying at the kiosk for parking before heading to our car, the same man who had come to get his bag came walking while rolling a suspiciously familiar suitcase behind him. He apologized for accidentally taking my bag and for not discovering the mistake until they were loading their rental vehicle. He said he was from Atlanta and was coming here to do the music for a funeral and that he was only focused on claiming his guitar and had let the other members of his party deal with the bags. I hugged him and told him he had no idea what an answer to prayer he was. I could have cried with relief. And I was in shock that out of all the zillions of places we could have been that we ran into each other at that very moment.
This may seem like some random story, but to me it's a bigger deal. I've been feeling a bit adrift in the world lately, feeling like everyone else is getting great favors from God while we're still waiting. This event was like the bookend on a trip that had functioned as a bit of a mending time in my heart. I had gone to the States devoid of confidence and no longer knowing myself or any of the emotional health I once held dear. A lot of that had to do with friendship issues here in Canada. The last week of my time in the States was spent getting to catch up with one friend after another, some I hadn't seen in nearly 20 years. I left the States remembering that I do indeed have a lot to offer as a friend and feeling like not only my friendship tank had been refilled but that my confidence had gotten a big boost.
This last event of having someone accidentally take my suitcase reminded me that even in frustrating happenings that there may be a greater purpose, a greater gift intended. This may sound silly to some, but to me, it's a silly story that contains an important reminder. I'd been wishing for a simple "favor" from God, something like a sweet gift. He had given me one the night before in the form of a friend who gave me a gift as I walked out of her door, but this gift was different. That gift was pure sweetness and encouragement. This one had me wade into a frustrating situation first. First I had to navigate the apparent loss of something important to me, and the knowledge that it may or may not be found and returned. I didn't know how it would end. But it ended in my bag coming home with me AND a travel voucher that will help us pay for a ticket in the future. To be honest, I felt a little abashed that I'd handled it with little grace and had allowed my frustration to come through so clearly. I wished that I had not been so impatient with the gate agent at the outset and so negative.
I wonder how many life events that look hard or feel incredibly frustrating are really gifts in disguise? That question right there is the big lesson for me. I know that is an area in my life that needs to grow, and this little story illustrates that to me so clearly. I look back on another friend's story and see how true that is, and I wonder just how many events in our lives that seem like bumps in the road are really gifts that are destined to make us richer in a multitude of ways.
And now that I'm back from my meeting in Vancouver with other women who suffered horrible birth traumas, I am reminded that maybe, just maybe, beauty really does grow out of ashes and good gifts really do come out of hard times. None of us would have chosen the stories we have, but I was amazed at how each woman's story is positively shaping her mark on the world. Despite the hellish experiences each of us have gone through, or perhaps more accurately BECAUSE OF THEM, we are each uniquely finding ways to help other women.
Hopefully the next time something hard comes my way I will remember to breathe and look with anticipation and hope at what may come of it instead of spending my time being impatient and declaring that the sky is falling. Robert Benson from Atlanta taught me that, whether he knows it or not.