Recently, I drove into in a nine-story parking garage in San Francisco. After I finished my errands, I couldn't remember where I'd parked. My husband, who was away at the time, had called just as I pulled into the space, and I was so happy to speak to him that I didn't write down the floor or space number. Although I'd parked in this same garage hundreds of times, and although I'd always parked on the same floor, in the same section, it now seemed as if my car had disappeared.
During the first 20 minutes of schlepping from floor to floor, I was the model of equanimity. "It's here somewhere, sweetheart," I said to myself. "You'll find it soon." But then panic set in: What if my car was stolen? What if I had to stay here until every other car was gone so that my car would be obvious?
I was tired, hungry and probably a teeny bit more hysterical than the average person. Then, two women in a white car pulled up. "Are you getting out of your space?" they asked, eyeing my shopping bags.
"I would if only I could find it" I said, sounding desolate. "I've lost my car."
"Would you like to get in? We could drive you around and help you find your car."
Before the driver could finish her sentence, I nodded my head, said thank you, and leaped into the backseat. For 40 minutes, we carefully examined every single car on every single floor. We'd inch up on each silver sedan, hopeful, excited, only to find it wasn't mine. After 42 minutes of searching, I began to question my sanity.
"Maybe I didn't park in this garage after all," I muttered. "Maybe I took my husband's car and not mine," I said in a semi-whisper.
My twin saviors remained cheerful, although I am certain they were wondering if they'd picked up a vagrant lunatic. When, at the end of the 45th minute, we found my car, I began squealing with delight and relief.
"Let me give you something," I said. "Anything. Do you want my earrings? My coat? My firstborn dog?"
They laughed. "Your parking space would be enough," they answered in unison.
As I was driving away, I was ecstatic. Not only because I was actually able to drive away, but because what had been an incredibly stressful situation was tempered by such unexpected kindness. Now, weeks after the incident, I am still awed by my rescuers' patience and willingness to postpone their errands to help a stranger. What could have been a disaster for me produced a multitude of gifts, as disasters often do.
How to find the blessing in any struggle