Last Saturday was undoubtedly the coldest night of the year thus far. The thermometer said it was 31, but it lied. The brisk winds straight from the North Pole brought the windchill down to at least 15.

Certainly, this was not the night to be without transportation, to gain a heightened sense of humility and to feel like one of “the least of these.” It wasn’t even a good time for developing a cure for the common cold. Actually, this was a night for counting one’s blessings, remembering loved ones now gone, and for relaxing in a warm chair by the fire.

That is what I did finally, but I know I appreciated this scenario more because I had previously encountered circumstances that were much less positive .

I seldom have a cold—minor allergies, yes, but not an honest-to-goodness cold. On Friday afternoon, I felt tired and emotionally drained. Rick and Sandy Woodward’s funeral had taken place at 11. Like everyone else who knew and loved them, I was sad. The fact that the date was the first anniversary of George’s death had not helped. I begged off an invitation to supper or a movie with Ruth Ann and came home to an earlier than usual bedtime.

I woke during the night with a rare headache, a runny nose and the A-ha feeling. Now I knew what was wrong. I was getting a cold. I took an antihistamine and an aspirin and went back to bed.

I felt a little better the next day and took another pill and another aspirin. My son Ralph called and said he was coming up to do some honey-do chores that he knew were stacking up. I put on a big pot of soup and enjoyed visiting with him and his friend Darla.

When my guests left about mid-afternoon, it was already awfully cold, and the winds made being outside miserable. Why then, would I decide to drive to town? My cold was rearing its ugly head on occasion, but I had a restless feeling that I wanted to get out before the expected snow arrived. I shopped briefly for some stocking stuffers since my family has agreed not to exchange presents this year.

I really did need groceries because I hadn’t been to the store in weeks. I drove to Save-a-Lot and stocked up on staples. Within a half hour, I unlocked my car, stashed the groceries in the trunk, then crawled into the driver’s seat and reached in the front pocket of my purse for my keys. They were not there ! I checked the pockets of my coat, then my pants pocket. Still no keys. My purse has about five compartments; I searched each one. Then I released the catch on the trunk and looked, frantically by this time, in each grocery bag. No keys.

I went back inside the store where the light was good and took everything out of my purse. Zilch! I explained to the pretty dark-haired girl who had checked me out what my problem was. She said I hadn’t laid them down at the check-out counter, (I knew that already because I was sure I had unlocked my car.) I went back outside to search again.

By this time it was dark, and there wasn’t enough light to check the ground around my auto. Desperate now, I went back into the store to ask if they had a flashlight I could borrow. The clerk, concerned by now, said she’d go out and help me look. She did, and we did, but to no avail.

Soon, another girl from the store joined us, and we all searched. We kept saying, “They have to be here. Where else could they be?”

I knew I had another set of keys at home, but where were they? I couldn’t be sure. I knew of a hook on which some keys hung, but I truly could not have said whether the Camry keys were among them. Those keys had belonged to George, and I didn’t think I had seen them since he became ill. There hadn’t been any need for an extra set of keys.

Now I started doubting my own sanity. Had I really locked my car. Maybe I hadn’t. Perhaps I had dropped them somewhere in the store. I went back to re-trace my route. No luck. In the meantime, the two girls were combing every inch of my car and all the ground around and the cold wind was the stuff of which pneumonia is made. They refused. “We’ve gotta find them.” One added, “I’ve lost my keys, and I know how frustrated you’re feeling.”

Finally, when I had given up from one last search in the store, here came the first checker, grinning from ear to ear, and dangling the precious keys from their chain. “Where were they?” I asked.

“They were in the basket,” she told me. “You had left them in the shopping cart.”

We hugged enthusiastically. Then I said, “Just a minute. I want to give you something for your efforts.” I reached for my billfold, and would you believe I had a measly $6 left? I handed that to them and said weakly, “It’s not nearly enough, but I am so grateful.” They assured me that was fine and they were happy to have been of some help.

I got back in the driver’s seat, inserted my precious key in the ignition and started the drive back to Byng America. I was nearly home before I realized my head had cleared; my cold was gone, at least temporarily. As a matter of fact, I felt wonderful! Apparently my cold virus decided it didn't belong in one so unstable!

On reaching home, I checked and the keys were where I had vaguely thought they might be. It was an educational evening. Henceforth, I will be more key conscious. I had never put my keys in the shopping cart before, and I never will again. From this time forward, I will know without a doubt where my extra set of keys reside. As a matter of fact, I’m considering having extra keys made and depositing them with my friends and neighbors.

On Monday morning, I checked with Save-a-Lot’s manager, Sandy, and told her how much I appreciated her two checkers, and today I plan to reward them more substantially. The first checker who helped was Karen Williams, and the second was Kira McDonald. It was so sweet of them to take their time to help “one of the least of these”—me.

———

A lot of people were concerned about the expected (but fortunately derailed) snow storm, but Bette and Vestel Cole were not worried. They had just returned from a visit to their daughter and son-in-law, Dan and Robin Dunnagan, in Ellensburg, Ore. All during the eight days of their visit, they encountered an 11-inch covering of snow, so they had become rather blasé about anything Oklahoma could offer in the war of snowfall.

The Coles were home and settled back into their busy daily life when their granddaughter, Amy McCain, graduated from East Central University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. They were very proud of Amy, not only because she was among the five students recognized as having the highest honors in her class, but because she graduated debt-free. Amy had held a job during all her college years and, thanks to her paycheck and a much-appreciated scholarship from the Chickasaws, she had been able to avoid a student loan. Congratulations, Amy. We hope you find just the elementary school for a teaching position.

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