It’s our first full day in Paris. I’m feeling joy after viewing Monet’s Le Bassin Aux Nymphéas at Musee d'Orsay, marveling at how water lilies must have inspired him the way they inspire me. I’m also feeling gratitude after lighting a candle, chanting metta for all beings everywhere, and appreciating the diverse currency inside a glass box at Notre-Dame.
It’s not until we are walking to our hotel room, bellies content with Häagen-Dazs, that my husband stops abruptly.
“Hey, do you know what this charge is on our credit card?”
I open my purse and quickly realize my wallet is missing. Flower! (My substitution for the F word.) I must have left it at the Orsay gift shop after buying some post cards.
We rush to our hotel room and start to call the credit card companies. While my husband and daughter comment on the unfortunate turn of events, I’m doing my best not to add extra arrows of self-judgment.
“Breathe, Kaveri. Breathe. Let your compassionate breath flow, Sweetheart. You know how to do this.”
As we make our way back to Notre-Dame, I listen to my husband tell our daughter that the probability of recovering anything inside the wallet is less than 5%. Call me a naïve optimist, but I still try to communicate with the one who found the wallet in a language beyond English and French. I try to appeal to his/her heart.
May you be happy.
May life support you in mysterious ways.
May you feel safe.
May you know peace.
(May I forgive you.)
OK, so the metta is not entirely altruistic. I’m hoping to get some part of the wallet back, to be compensated for the good intentions I practiced at Notre-Dame. Earlier, I opened my wallet to take out a dollar bill and dropped in in the glass box to join the prayers for peace by others who have been here before. Maybe I left my purse open long enough for a pickpocket to grab the wallet, or left it on the glass counter as I took out my phone to take a picture.
I check the information desk at the entrance inside Notre-Dame. The lady behind the counter shows me three black wallets, none of which are mine. I also revisit the donation box. Still, no black wallet. Feeling tired and defeated, I rejoin my family to figure out dinner plans. We decide to try a falafel place my cousin suggested. It’s about a twenty-minute walk from here.
Once we sit down with our falafel wraps, I feel like there is still something missing. I practiced self-compassion and forgiveness for the one who found the wallet. What about the others who lost their wallets? The woman at Notre-Dame showed me three other black wallets. I’m not alone. Others experienced this, too. I take the opportunity to widen the circle of compassion.
May other travelers who lose something major feel safe.
May they find solace and support.
May compassion be an antidote to self-judgment.
May they know peace.
I take my first bite into crispy falafel balls dressed in tangy tahini sauce, cabbage, cucumber, and eggplant tucked inside a pita bread. Yum! Dear Universe, thank you for the blessing of these experiences. I lost my driver’s license and major credit cards. I lost an identity, worldly wealth, and gained the currency of compassion.