[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following was originally printed in The Forum newspaper, on Jan. 18, 2014.]
By Roxane B. Salonen
At one of the chilliest points in our recent deep freeze, a young student my mother tutors looked up and asked her, “How long before spring?”
Leave it to kids to cut straight to hope. And so at this blah time of year – a time of brown pine needles, torn tinsel and chapped lips – I can’t help but take a cue from the youngest among us and look either to warmer times or those past.
It was in the height of last summer, in fact, that I was given the most amazing lesson in perseverance – a word we all could use about now.
It had been a lean month, a time of cutting back and making do, but we knew a big check was on its way soon to help us breathe. The day it arrived, I jumped for joy and headed out with my middle son on a summer evening walk to the bank.
I’d tucked the check carefully into the depths of my back pants pocket to secure its safety, and off we went, happily moving toward our goal of the nearest ATM machine about five blocks away.
We talked and giggled all the way there, light as feathers. But upon reaching the bank, I discovered my pockets empty. What? I searched again, but nothing.
In desperation, I said a quick prayer asking God to help us locate the check. But what were the chances, I wondered, noting the breeze and heavily trafficked area we’d just moved through?
In our now somber mood, my son and I began retracing every inch of our journey. At one point midway, a bicycler a block ahead stopped to reach for something on the ground. Hurrying ahead I asked, “Did you find a check by chance?” “No,” he said, and quickly shot off.
At home, we began searching inside, thinking perhaps I’d only imagined putting it in my pocket, but that, too, was fruitless. Now tuned into our stress, my youngest daughter joined our frantic mission.
But I’d already begun losing hope. The sun would descend soon, and if darkness didn’t bring a natural end to our hunt, the wind would whisk away any chances of the check turning up.
By now, my daughter was on her bike, preparing to scout out the trail on her own. “I don’t think it’s going to happen,” I said. “Just don’t stay out long. It’ll be dark soon.”
With other obligations yanking at me, I reluctantly abandoned the quest. It was a lost cause anyway, I was certain.
On my way to pick up my oldest son from work, I drove along the main artery near where we’d walked and caught sight of my daughter on her bike searching the cracks of the sidewalks and nearby lawns. It broke my heart to see her out there looking, knowing the futility of it all.
While waiting for my son to get off his shift, my cell phone lit up. It was my daughter. “Guess what, Mom? I found it!”
I froze in disbelief for the second time.
“It was in a little spot between the sidewalk and grass,” she said, adding that she, too, had said a prayer. “I knew how much this check meant and I just knew it had to be out there somewhere.”
The monkey leaping off my back, I paused to absorb in humility another answered prayer, along with the great lesson my daughter had just taught me about faith.
To this day, the check’s reappearance in that random crack along a busy, breezy sidewalk doesn’t make any more sense to me than the fact that it somehow worked its way out of my deep pocket a short while before.
What remains secure in my mind is the image of my daughter scouring the sidewalks long after I’d given up, believing her prayer would not go unheard and doing her part to make it happen.
Now that’s perseverance – a word precious enough to ponder and pursue, whether on a mid-January day or in the summit of summer.