This is a story about a gold earring and a silver wishbone.
With a little beer and redemption thrown in for good measure.
Four years ago, I inherited a pair of gold earrings from a dear family member who I’ve affectionately called my fairy godmother. The earrings are lacelike gems and appear Old World old, like fairy-tale gold. She had worn them well and often.
And though I hardly ever wear them — they’re a little too elegant, not really my style — I treasure what they are and who they represent.
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Last December, I loaned the earrings to one of my best friends for a special occasion. Weeks later, she had the difficult job of telling me that one of the earrings was missing.
My first reaction was a little teary. I wasn’t crying about a piece of jewelry. I was crying because I had lost something tangible that had belonged to someone very important to me. While my intention in sharing had been good and generous, I felt careless and irresponsible. I wasn’t upset with my friend. I was mad at myself.
My friend felt horrible. She said she would keep searching her home. If the jewelry didn’t show up, she said she knew of a jeweler who might be able to re-create the missing piece and make the pair whole.
Which made it feel even worse. There are lots of things in life — big and small, important and ordinary — that can’t be fixed that easily. This wasn’t about losing an earring. It was about having lost someone who had believed so fully in me. Even though it had been years since her passing, no jeweler was going to be able to fix that.
I assured my friend that it was OK and that I was confident that the earring would turn up. And as soon as I said it, I believed it.
Months went by. Nothing.
Then one afternoon, early this spring, I stepped outside of a building in downtown State College and saw two young women who were looking for something. Both had their heads down, eyes on the ground. One was crouched alongside the sidewalk, her hands brushing the pavement.
I asked if they needed help. No, the one said, her eyes not leaving the ground. They were just looking for something. I prodded. A silver wishbone, she said. An earring.
She sounded far from hopeful. She had just gotten the pair. She had lost it earlier in the day. It could be anywhere.
Well, then. I told them I, too, had a missing earring out there somewhere. and it just seemed that I should help them — that by helping them, perhaps mine would come closer to being found. Good earring karma, I joked.
With that, I joined the search. And in just a minute or two of scanning the pavement, I picked up a tiny sliver, just the faintest glint of something out of the ordinary among the cinders, dirt and pebbles lining the street.
I made a secret little wish. The young woman thanked me profusely. Her friend said she thought I’d find mine now, too. “Good earring karma,” she called out as I walked away.
I’m not into karma. But I do have faith. And much of that faith is that there is a fundamental rightness or goodness or wholeness that emerges in the most unexpected times in the most unexpected ways, bringing a little balance to a topsy-turvy world.
Within 48 hours, my friend called. You’re not going to believe this, she said. And with those words I knew that I already did. My earring had been found. It had turned up in a place that she had searched before, repeatedly.
I wasn’t surprised. No doubt whatsoever.
I was reminded of earrings, wishbones and wishes a couple of weeks ago, when I stumbled across “Beer and Redemption.”
It was on the outskirts of a worn southern New York town. I thought it was a very funny name for a funny-looking store. The building, long and lean, was plastered with posters promoting seasonal brews and the usual cases, cans and bottles. The other had big plate-glass windows. No-nonsense. Utilitarian. Like a laundromat.
Enter and turn left, and you could pick up a six-pack. Go to the right, and you could turn in empty bottles and cans for cash. Hence the redemption.
I loved the name. Vice and virtue, sin and salvation, together under one roof.
Life is often like that. Lost and found. Happy and sad. The best of times, the worst of times.
This past spring was a time when I found myself questioning so many things — up and down. Right and wrong. What and why.
Wishes and wishbones certainly didn’t hurt. But it took friendship, faith and a few not-so-coincidental coincidences to get me back on track.
Or, as the man who gave me directions in that town in New York put it, I just needed to “go up the road a little ways to Redemption.”
And I was saved.