I just took my son Brendan and his Nigerian buddy to see the movie “Wonder.” It was lovely. The whole movie is about the beauty of kinship, about people retraining their eyes to see with their hearts.
On the way out of the theater, 200 people filed past a woman who was close to tears because she’d lost her wallet. She patiently and pleadingly asked if anyone had seen her wallet. Nearly everyone ignored her, like straight-up blanked her. Some of my fellow denizens of Baltimore County could even be heard muttering “Well she’s SOL … like anyone’s going to tell her if they find it.” Or “OMG, that’s so lame, like saying, ‘Anyone seen a black wallet?’ is going to make any difference.”
Many days it could well have been me, but I got all sad seeing this woman feeling like that, so I sent Brendan and his pal back in, like salmon swimming against the rushing torrent, to go and find the wallet.
In the midst of the little humanitarian mission for which I enlisted two little immigrants of color (my son is Guatemalan), odd worries flew into my head, that somehow being kind would backfire, like somehow I looked like Charles Dickens’ Fagan, enlisting other people’s children to “find” lost wallets (and empty them); I wondered whether the odd looks that we got as a trio of extranjeros pushing past everybody would somehow translate into some surreal misunderstanding. Or am I being paranoid about doing the “right thing,” I thought.
Brendan and his amiguito were unsuccessful, as was I, as we scoured each row, looking for a black wallet in a darkened movie theater. But when everyone had left, except for me, my son, his friend and this wallet-less stranger, she shouted, “I found it!” Indeed, she had. She hugged us and thanked us and almost cried with the immense joy and relief of finding her wallet. Filled with emotion, she asked if these children were mine (neither of whom look like they belong to me). “Yes,” I said, full of pride. “They are wonderful” she said and told her friends as we emerged into the crowded lobby.
Today I was fortunate enough to find a moment to see the “wonder” of joy from people doing what is only natural, in a world where it has become all too easy to forget that we all belong to one another, that we all lose our wallet and that we all need each other.
This isn’t supposed to be a halo-polishing moment (my mother always warned me about a halo that could slip and choke me), it just seemed like a wake-up call. Not an apocalyptic one, but one where I realized how easily I could have said to myself, “Oh, poor lady, I hope she finds it” and literally kept on going with the flow. It made me wonder how many times a day I do that without realizing it.
Today I was lucky enough to have the time and presence of mind to do something different.