BURKES COLUMN: Keyless in Sacramento
Whenever people ask me about “the wife,” I say, “Her name's Becky, so please don't call her 'the wife.' ”
I say this because at our wedding 30 years ago, she refused to let her father give her away. “I'm not a commodity to give away like the house or the car,” she explained.
She was right. She's still not. She's an intelligent teacher who's rarely careless or clueless. However, she was recently keyless.
It happened last month in Sacramento as she walked to her car clutching her remote key along with an armload of books. When her load shifted unexpectedly, she bobbled her key and dropped it.
The next few moments played in slow motion. The key tumbled through the air, took a bounce and then slid across the pavement, making a hole-in-one through a slimy storm grate.
When she called seeking solutions, I suggested she hitch a ride home to retrieve our extra key. She agreed, adding, “Don't you have a stringed magnet for rescuing dropped tools and such?”
“Good thinking,” I said. “Try that or perhaps the city would remove the grate.”
She went home to grab the key and magnet, but also took time to mention her troubles to a friend who promised prayers.
An hour later, she returned to the scene of the grime, where she discovered two things. First, the key, irretrievably buried in a bed of dry leaves, wasn't metal and, therefore, not attracted by the magnet. Second, a woman bending over a storm grate will draw a crowd of children quicker than an ice-cream truck.
Just then, the mousy voice of a fourth-grade girl erupted from the gaggle of kids to offer her father's assistance. Becky agreed and the girl walked across the street to collect her father, who did not speak English.
When the girl translated my wife's problems, the man retreated into his garage workshop and affixed a hooked nail to the end of a broomstick. Returning, he hunched over the grate and thrust his contraption into the hole to stir the leaves.
Then, just as the school's lawn sprinkler gushed and runoff water threatened to ruin the key's electronics, the man suddenly came up with the key. Becky isn't a hugger, but she made an exception for this girl. In turn, the girl translated my wife's gratitude to her father.
The next day, Becky returned a thank you that needed no interpretation: cupcakes. The girl took the tray, but requested something else.
“Could you help my mom translate school registration forms?” she asked.
My wife was overtaken by the spiritual opportunity to return the family kindness and spent the next 20 minutes gladly filling forms.
The incident reminded me of the little boy who offered to help Jesus feed 5,000 followers. The help consisted of only two loaves of bread and five bony fish, but Jesus accepted the help and asked his students to distribute the food. Soon the disciples were stunned to see how the boy's gift multiplied enough to send the people home satisfied.
Sometimes our prayers become an attempt to micromanage God. “Perhaps you can send a locksmith or maybe you can make this magnet work, or get the city to fix it,” we pray.
Yet at the end of the day, both Jesus and my wife got their help from a child, a fact that demonstrates two things: First, God has the ability to help in amazing ways if we're open to humble sources. Second, God is always in control and without him, we are always keyless.
Norris Burkes is a syndicated columnist, national speaker and author. You can email him at email@example.com.