Another Currency: Connections and Kindness for my Wallet-less Day

This week I am travelling for work to attend some important meetings in the UK and at some point along my journey, I lost my wallet.

Did it slip out of my purse? 

Did someone steal it at the airport when I turned my back for a moment? 

Was I just so disorganized that I had no business travelling anyway? 

My mind was racing with explanations, but the one thing I knew for sure is that I did not have my wallet. I realized it was missing about an hour before landing when I reached in my purse to ensure that all my documentation was organized to clear Customs. Thankfully my passport was in a different pocket, and I also had my Nexus card, but what I did not have was the local currency, or any credit cards. The first thing I wanted to do was call my partner, but I was embarrassed and thought that I should at least have a plan in place before I reached out to another person to help solve my problem.

Why do I do this?  Especially, with the one person who consistently demonstrates his unconditional love, care and support.

On the way out of Customs, there was a currency exchange desk.  I asked if they could take cash and pulled out the one Canadian twenty-dollar bill that I had in my emergency stash. For my bill, I received six pounds, and the clerk graciously offered me to use their phone if I needed to call anyone.  I knew that they were limited in how they could help, but their kindness and empathy was reassuring to me.

The most logical option seemed to be to turn around and go back home and I knew this was a plan I could easy make happen.  I would just need to find an Air Canada desk and change my return flight to as soon as possible.  I didn’t have any money, hotels usually need to see a credit card at check-in, my cell phone would likely stop working.

How could I survive for a week in another country without any of these neccessities?

Then, I thought about the email I would need to write telling the UK team that I had lost my wallet and had returned home. I realized that they would likely have felt disappointed and asked me why I did not call them, or why I hadn’t called the team member clearly identified as my go-to if I needed anything along the way.

Even the idea that they would care and be willing to help gave me some confidence and energy to find a solution.  Why did hesitate so much to make that call?

I also knew that some colleagues were already in the UK and that they and the friends they are staying with would likely help if I reached out to them.  Some of the other conference attendees were also likely at the airport, and I am sure that friends, or friends of friends would have connections in London who could help if I made my situation public on social media.  I also remembered lecturing a friend a few weeks back, that we can’t spend our time solving problems, that we needed to start from a place of possibility.

One of the thousands of people in this airport could help me.

I could ask one person, or a few people if they would give or lend me twenty pounds? Looking around the airport, I could visualize the dollar bills in people’s wallets.  

How could I penetrate the invisible wall keeping us all separated and find an opportunity to connect with someone who might help?

I also thought about the privilege I carry in being a middle-age, middle class white woman from Canada.  Most people would likely believe me and trust that I had a genuine need.

This wasn’t the time to philosophize.  I needed a plan.

To avoid further troubles, I called my bank and credit card companies to cancel the cards.  After 10 minutes of verification, one card company said that they could send me a new card in 10-12 days.  When I let them know that I would be back home by then, they told me that it was the best that they could do and that there were no other options.

I understood.  These are huge systems and while the person understood my unique situation, there really wasn’t any process in place to make a card and get it send to me that quickly.

The line at the luggage carousel was taking a very long time.  There were murmurs amongst the crowd that many of the suitcases from Toronto had been lost. My day was about to get even more complicated. I followed the group to the baggage services counter where we learned that our bags were indeed lost and that we could fill out a report and have the bags delivered to our local address once found. Waiting in line tears were rolling down my face at this point.  With very little sleep, and not a lot of food, the feelings of overwhelm were setting in.

The person beside me asked if I was okay.  I told them about my losing my wallet and that I was trying to sort out what to do.  They offered give me some money.  I humbly responded that I had not ever been in a situation like this before, but that if they would be so kind, it would help me a lot.  I shared with them all the things I was trying like setting up Apple Pay on my phone to create an electronic version of my credit card.  When we recognized that we were both Canadian, we realized that since they did have a wallet and all their cards that they could take money out of the ATM machine and then I could e-transfer the amount to pay them back.  Seemed like a brilliant plan, until we went over to the ATM’s, and they were not working.  There was an option to leave the airport, but I was not willing to do that.  I thanked them for their kindness and concern and found a quiet spot to think.

I called my partner to let him know what was going on.  His support was comforting to my heart, and he believed with me that we could find a solution.  Bolstered by his love and genuine care, I was able to reserve a bus ticket online and bought the flex fare so I could use it at any time.  Then I called the hotel and explained my situation.  I basically just needed to know that if I spent 2.5 hours on the bus to get there if they would let me have the room without a physical card present.  The receptionist was kind and assured me that they would welcome me on my arrival.

Arrival at the hotel went without issue and I was able to get a shower, some dinner and begin to relax in this beautiful town.  Hopefully my bags will be delivered soon, but until then while the day was full of challenges, I made it to where I was intended to be and learned quite a few things along the way.

As I reflect on today’s wallet-less adventure, I can’t help but reflect on the conversations that we will be having at the EASPD (European Association of Providers of Services for People with a Disability) ‘Lighthouse’ activity with LivesThroughFriends this week in Cheltenham.

What would make it easier for us to share our deep needs with each other?

What is the role of friends, relationships and community in our lives compared to formal supports and systems? 

How do people with disabilities and their families experience this on a daily basis as they work to build good lives in community?

Whose stories shine light on the ways that natural, community based support is the strongest foundation for our safety and security?

What actions can I take to demonstrate that connection and kindness are a currency?