In my last post, I said that I would report more on my trip to Arizona. Now that I am safely back in Xalapa, it’s time to share a few highlights of a trip that felt truly blessed.
Given the coronavirus situation, my first order of business was to decide whether I should go at all. I was aware, of course, of all the public health experts’ recommendations to stay at home as much as possible, so it wasn’t an easy decision. But after a lot of prayer and conversation with my partner, Patricia, my sense was that it was right to go. And now that I’m back, I’m glad I did.
Having decided to go, I sure as heck was going to follow all the recommended coronavirus health protocols. So, I washed my hands frequently, became surprisingly good at not touching my face, and always had my hand sanitizer at the ready. And it was social distancing all the way. Strangely enough, that could be done even during my air travel: So few people were flying that I could wait at near-empty boarding gates, and on the planes both ways I got a whole row of three seats to myself. Once in Arizona, I spent the vast majority of my time alone in a hotel room. I did get together with a friend on two occasions, but we followed all the protocols, confined our physical greetings to elbow bumps, and stayed away from crowds. One friend and I had a delightful picnic lunch alone in a park by a pond. Better than a restaurant, really.
Other than those encounters, I emerged only to get food and take care of necessary business. Of course, the main order of business was getting my computer back from the Ajo Border Patrol Station (out in the middle of nowhere—no crowds there!). I showed up on the appointed day, a very helpful BP officer named Toomie brought my stuff out and gave it to me, we shared pleasantries, and that was that. Mission accomplished!
Soon after, though, misfortune struck: I reached into my pocket when I got to my hotel in Tucson two hours later, and discovered that my wallet was gone. I had inadvertently left it on the counter of a convenience store where I had made a $2.50 purchase (pretty expensive purchase, as it turned out). I called the convenience store and they searched for the wallet, but it was gone, presumably stolen. So, I had to cancel my cards immediately, and now I was stuck with no money, no hotel room, and no food for the next three days. What was I going to do? I’ll be honest, it was a scary moment for me. I needed help. From where would it come?
To my amazement, help did come, in many serendipitous ways. A friend I had called offered to help pay for my hotel room, but he didn’t need to because the hotel proprietor, with whom I had a friendly relationship from previous stays, generously allowed me to stay for free until I got things sorted out. He even offered me food. The next day, a kind teller at my bank enabled me to access cash from my account, so I had money to pay for the hotel, food, and other things I needed. Thanks to a helpful tip from the hotel proprietor, I was able to get a temporary copy of my driver’s license quickly and easily. Another friend gave me a full tank of gas and money toward my car rental in exchange for transporting him on an important errand. On the day of my departure, the friend with whom I shared the picnic stayed near the airport until I was sure I would be able to get on the flight to Mexico—not a certainty, because of a Mexico travel ban that was supposedly going into effect that day. And amazingly, the customs agent in Mexico who processed my entry actually remembered me from a previous visit. He spoke to me in English and approved my visa with a smile. What travel ban?
As Patricia put it, there were angels everywhere. That was my sense of the entire trip. Because there were so many kind souls there to help me, everything fell into place, even when—or perhaps especially when—I lost my wallet. Out of my deep gratitude for their kindness, I did my best to return that kindness to them and extend it to others. The trip was therefore, as I said at the beginning, truly blessed.
And for me, this blessing will resonate far beyond this particular trip. In these challenging times, it seems to me that we need more than ever to be angels to each other. As I now sit here in (precautionary) self-quarantine with Patricia—the Nightly Met Opera Streams are our friends—I want to remember that there are indeed angels everywhere. And I want to deepen my commitment to being part of that brigade of happy helpers who are bringing compassionate love and comfort to a frightened and suffering world.
P.S. While I was on the trip, there was another misfortune back in Mexico: Patricia’s 93-year-old mother broke her hip and needed surgery. Fortunately, there were angels in Guadalajara too: The operation was successful, and while there will be a lot of rehab, overall her mother is doing well. We are very grateful.