There may be a point in our life when we approach the stop sign of mortality at the same intersection of humanity and friendship. As my husband and I recently found out, this conjoined incidence can happen without warning.
In preparing for our annual trip to Palm Springs, I withdrew a healthy allowance of $320 for my daily coffee indulgence and shopping delights. However, we packed our suitcases this time with heavy hearts as our dear friend was dying of brain cancer in nearby Phoenix.
Once in Palm Springs, we timed our Arizona trip to coincide with our friend's schedule of chemotherapy appointments and bed rest. After sobering visits to the hospice, we drove back to Palm Springs the next day with our senses heightened. We were silent for most of the four-hour drive back to California, and upon our return sought out the comfort food we most enjoy.
Metaphorically, a left or right turn, or even a U-turn, can affect the outcome of any one clear decision. When asked at our favourite deli where we wish to be seated at the packed restaurant, we chose to be outside. After a lengthy wait, we walked to our seats, ate our meal quietly and reflected on the last 24 hours.
When my husband proceeded to pay the bill, I noticed a quarter roll out of his pocket onto the pavement near my leg, and when I reached down, I pulled up $320 in twenty dollar bills. The same amount and denomination that I brought with me on this trip! Stunned at the wad of cash before me, I hesitated to announce the treasure to my husband for a few seconds -- confused at the possibility my initial spending money remained intact even though we were halfway through our trip.
After a quick glance around, we calmly assessed our options: if we return the undeclared money to the waiter, it might go undeservedly to the staff Christmas party; if we wait too long for the return of the person who preceded us, we may be booted out for another round of table guests; and if we keep the money, then to whom will we owe this fortune of good luck and ensuing admission of guilt? After paying the bill, we sought out the restaurant management to announce our discovery. When we offered the found money and our contact details to the nonplussed owner, she was indifferent. And so we left with heavy hearts and little optimism for the fair and proper outcome.
The next day, I encouraged my husband to call the restaurant to check the status of our find. The owner informed us no one came forward. However, she insisted on retaining the money for three more days -- likely jeopardizing our hope of the money landing in its rightful place, or as a contingency, to us, so we could donate it to the hospice.
Frustrated, we headed for a drive out of town when the phone rang. "Hello, my name is Arthur and I want to thank you so much for returning the money." Stunned for a few seconds, I chatted briefly about how all this came to be. Arthur was touched and wished to offer us a dinner certificate to the deli. But not content to simply be satisfied at the closure, I asked if we could meet, and he agreed.
The next evening we spent 90 minutes telling stories like old friends at a reunion. Arthur recounted how he paid the restaurant bill and pulled out his newly purchased ATM banknotes, but did not notice the amount that dropped to the floor.
He was most keen to know as much about us as we were about him. When my husband mentioned he sat on the board of Crohn's and Colitis Canada, Arthur informed us his daughter was affected by this disease. And with that pronouncement, advised he would make a donation as a genuine token of his appreciation for our actions.
Weeks later we received a thank you card reminding us that the split decisions we make have far reaching outcomes, beyond our basic understanding at the time we make them.
While Arthur is still retelling the story of the lost money to his grandchildren, he's also getting much pleasure hearing their divergent reactions if they too found the cash.
As for me, I will continue to trust my instincts. After all, I could find myself stopping at that same intersection again.