It was Christmas night 2017. We checked into a hotel for one night after celebrating the day with my husband’s family. We would drive home the next morning.
The hotel sat across the street from a city park, and in that moment, it was beautiful. Our dark room’s windows lit up with the bright red, green and blue lights wrapped around the park’s trees. Strings of white lights hung across several walkways.
I watched from my hotel window as hundreds of people wandered the endless paths of light. They moved in every direction and the scene overwhelmingly beckoned me to join them.
So we did. We exited the hotel and crossed at a very busy intersection. We moved slowly into the flow of the crowd and let it take us. We had no time concerns, no plan. It was all serendipitous; the very best kind of evening.
We stopped at a few of the largest trees to take selfies, I would quickly (vainly) remove my glasses for the photos. Perhaps it could be for next year’s holiday card? We sat on a park bench for a while taking in the sounds and sights of couples and happy families.
Finally, we moved towards the entrance and made our way back to the hotel. We were getting ready for bed when panic struck. Where were my glasses? I need them for distance; like driving or watching television. Or, looking at holiday lights. I walked back to the window, my heart falling over a precipice. Did I lose them in the park? With all those people walking the paths, they would either be kicked under something or shattered by now. I imagined a young child, spotting a glint of light bouncing off the lens and saying “look mommy, look what I found.” And promptly putting them in her coat pocket until later when her parents could hear her.
Just to be sure, we tossed the room like a thief, but no glasses. We decide to return to the park. I knew there was little hope. It was dark, crowded and I had no time frame of “when” I may have dropped them. Was it the selfie in front of the tallest tree? Or was it the light and water display? We walked several loops, keeping our heads down, but there would be no Christmas miracle, we didn’t find them.
We were facing a significant problem. I would need the glasses for the three-hour drive home. With a permanent eye condition, my husband does very little driving. There was no possibility that he could drive the city traffic.
We talked it through and thought we could go to one of those “Get Your Glasses in an Hour” franchises, but I was worried whether my optometrist’s office would be open to provide my prescription. I would prefer to use that one. If necessary, I guess I’d have to get an eye exam too. It just felt like driving with a new prescription would be a trial by fire. As we’re packing, I said “Let’s go back over there again, just in case.”
Walking into the entrance that morning, it was a completely different environment. The people were gone and the lights off. Daylight showed us the bits of trash scattered on the sidewalks and a homeless man lying on a picnic table.
We tried to repeat our exact walk from the previous night, but we couldn’t remember it all. In the end, I gravitated over to a copse of trees near the homeless man. I remember that the lights were all green in this section, it was pretty, and we had walked on the grass to get a photo. I didn’t walk on the grass now. Instead, I stood on the sidewalk’s edge and scanned the area, ironically without the very glasses which would have helped.
And then I looked down. Straight, straight down at my feet. And there lay my glasses. Folded, lens up, practically touching the tips of my shoes they were that close. If I had walked among the trees, I might have missed them. I stood in the one spot in the entire park where they sat, waiting for me.
Stunned doesn’t adequately capture the moment. It was bigger than that. They had escaped being crushed from a crowd. And now, how they lay, and where they lay in front of me felt like a gift; a divine one. I can offer no other word. Truthfully, I hold my faith in tight, I see it as a relationship between God and I. I don’t attend church. I don’t discuss it with friends and I don’t write about it too often. But I do believe. I look up and the homeless man is gone.
I reach down to pick them up. I am sure they have a broken arm or scratched lens or something. But they are perfectly fine. I whisper “thank you” and the relief is equal to the gratitude I feel.
This happened. This is real. It was beyond a one in a million chance that my glasses would be found at all, let alone in the way that I found them.
I think I saw something as I put them on. Hope can be realized at any time and in any place; even if you have given up. And God is closer than you think.