I Found a Key Today that had Disappeared a Long Time Ago

I Found a Key Today that had Disappeared a Long Time Ago

Finding a Key

As I power-walked this morning, I noticed, in the shadows, on the concrete curb of a footbridge, a key.  It looked like a house key.  It had a pink tag.  

Someone had lost his or her key.

I strode past the spot.  I thought that a dropped key wouldn’t have landed on a curb by itself.  Someone had found the key, placed it in conspicuous view, and hoped that owner would see it.

But anyone could pick up that key, pocket it, and keep it for criminal purpose.  I could do that.

Then I remembered, about ten strides past the lost key, that I had lost a key months ago.  It was a swimming pool gate key, which I kept in my swim trunks’ zipper pocket.   One day I looked for the key in the pocket and found no key but a hole in the pocket.  The key that had slipped unnoticed to the ground had a lavender tag.  The key on the curb had a pink one.  Or did it?

I turned around and went back.  I was wrong about the pink tag.  The key on the curb had a lavender one just like the one I happened to be carrying, another swimming pool gate key, this one with a curly wristband to secure it to my wrist.   I compared the keys.  They were identical.

I had found my own key.

Several times a week I take an aerobic walk, followed by lap swimming in a neighborhood pool.  I carry keys because I don’t want to power-walk to the pool only to find that I can’t unlock the gate.  But months ago I started losing keys.

Falling leaves and rain dropped on it.  It baked in last summer’s heat.  It endured a hurricane.  Walkers, joggers, bicyclists, dogs on leashes, squirrels, and mothers pushing baby carriages all passed within feet of the rusting key with its lavender tag.

The key that I’d just recovered, two miles from my house, must have fallen within feet of where I had just re-discovered it.  Some sensible person had picked it up and laid it on the six-inch high curb at the end of the bridge.

The key remained on the bridge curb for months.  Falling leaves and rain dropped on it.  It baked in last summer’s heat.  It endured a hurricane.  Walkers, joggers, bicyclists, dogs on leashes, squirrels, and mothers pushing baby carriages all passed within feet of the rusting key.  Hundreds of people passed that spot.

I, myself, passed that spot several times a week on my four mile, four-times-a-week walk.  For months, I walked that bridge and never noticed the key.

Until today.

There’s another explanation of events, one slightly less dramatic, that is nearly as amazing as the one where the key sits in plain view for months.  Maybe the key had lain in the groove between the concrete sidewalk and the lawn for most of that time.  Maybe only yesterday, or at least in the last few days, after surviving weekly mower blades and string trimmers, someone extracted the key from its hiding place and placed it, visible to passers-by, in its conspicuous spot on the curb.

Finding Feels Great

No matter what had happened to the key after it dropped to the sidewalk months ago, the story is remarkable.  To recover something so small, lost for so long, seen by so many people all of whom were honest and helpful, can be nothing less than remarkabe.

I’m not talking about a single thoughtful person.  There would have had to have been many honest people in order for that key to be back in my hand.  As I walked and clutched the key, I envisioned dozens, maybe hundreds, of people spotting the key and leaving it alone.

I tried to deflate my sense that something, if not miraculous, then at least amazing, had happened.  I strained to think of an explanation for what had happened that made it not so wonderful.  What would a skeptic say that would spoil it?  I could think of nothing.  I was trapped by, not a big life-changing miracle, but by a small and pure one.

This thought lifted my mood as I stepped along on my walk.

Other thoughts came to me.  One was that the key wasn’t important to me.  This was not the last key to the safe that held stock certificates, my mother’s engagement ring, and old love letters.  I wasn’t one of those expensive electronic car keys and fobs.  It was the key that opened the gate to a swimming pool.  The gate keeps unsupervised children out of danger.  I had several copies of the key.  For a key that I didn’t need and had written off, to come back into my hands by an extraordinary succession of fortunate happenings, was in itself a refreshing thought.

After I walked two miles with my rusty key I got another mood lift.  The key worked.  The gate swung open.  I could use it.  I could give it to someone.

Easter is about Finding

This all happened on Easter Day.  Maybe that gave it a providential feel.  The hand that guides all things is not above doing frivolous miracles like making gallons of wine at the hour when the wedding reception should have been winding down or arranging for a large netting of fish that are left in a pile on the shore as the fishermen walked off into the distance with Jesus.

Maybe the key recovery on a day centered on the greatest of all miracles wasn’t to boost my spare key collection, but to point out something else.

How Easter Feels

The hand that guides all things is not above doing frivolous miracles like making gallons of wine at the hour when the wedding reception should have been winding down or arranging for a large netting of fish that are left in a pile on the shore as the fishermen walked off into the distance with Jesus.

The heart of Easter is recovery.  Jesus, together with the friendship circle that had grown around him, his vision for what was happening in the world, and the optimism that a number of people had placed in him, all were lost when he died.  If I were one of Jesus’ disciples, I would describe my grief over his death as the loss of the most exciting optimism I had ever experienced.  Just when I was convinced that goodness and truth and beauty were real, that God was alive and active, his life was brutally taken away.  Together with his life his community and dreams were all lost.  In his absence the world would have seemed to be unbearably cruel.

But what was lost was recovered.  In the same way that my recovery of a key, albeit an unnecessary key, brought a tide of optimism into my thoughts, the discovery of Jesus back again from being gone forever must have brought a flood of hope to those who were trying to adjust to his disappearance and get back to their lives.

He was no key.  He was God in the world.  He was God’s move to rescue and renovate the world.  When all of that was lost, there was an awful void.  And when it was found again, well, I can sense just a little of the exuberance that followed because I found a key today that had disappeared a long time ago.

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