Finding, part 1

Two weekends ago, seven of the eight of us (Kelly was at a game with a friend) went downtown for the evening with Dave’s brother who was visiting. We wandered up and down the Magnificent Mile enjoying the lights and then trekked west to the Portillo’s on Ontario. Before eating, Judy (our older international “daughter”) went to the restroom, took out her retainers (a recent expenditure—they’re not cheap!), and wrapped them in a white paper towel from the restroom (some of you already know where this is going!). She set them next to her plate while she ate.

Near the end of our meal, a Portillo’s employee kept buzzing around picking up trash. She was so quick and quiet doing this, we almost didn’t notice her! When we completely finished, we continued the cleanup (you bus your own tables at Portillo’s), and Judy suddenly realized her retainers were not next to her plate.

Quiet panic. I assumed one of us had thrown them away, so I turned to the trashcan where we’d put everything we cleared. A man in a Portillo’s uniform with a nametag reading “Sherman” was just about to empty the trash. We explained the situation to him, and he helped me look through BOTH of the side-by-side cans. In fact, he stopped me a couple times when I was about to pick up a particularly soggy something and lifted it with his own gloved hand. “I should have gotten you a pair of gloves,” he remarked.

No retainers in the first can. Judy was rigid at this point. Dave had already helped her go through every pocket in her coat and every compartment in her purse. Em had checked under and around the table.

We reached the bottom of the second can. I saw something pink shining through a white paper. I grabbed it.

Not retainers.

I looked up and met Sherman’s very, very sympathetic eyes. “Thank you,” I told him. He nodded. I turned to Dave. “I’m going to go wash my hands before we leave.”

On my way up the stairs, I prayed. “Please, God, by some miracle let those retainers be in the bathroom. I know she brought them down to the table, but if You want to just re-locate them right now and have them on the counter when I walk in, that would be truly incredible. She is never going to stop beating herself up about this! Please, God, a miracle!”

No retainers on the counter.

As I came back down the steps I saw my brother-in-law, Scott, had an arm around Judy. All the other kids were gathered around them. My heart sank. She’s crying, I thought. I made it all the way up to the group before they noticed me. I reached out a hand to Judy when Scott saw me. “He found them,” he said. “Sherman found them!”

Judy was crying, but they were tears of joy!

I turned to Dave, and he gestured to Sherman, who was several feet away, emptying a different set of trash containers, these farther from our table. “He decided to look through those, too,” Dave said. “He thought the Portillo’s lady might have taken them for trash and put them there, so he looked before he emptied the cans.”

I went over to Sherman. His grin was broad, but he was a little embarrassed. “Thank you,” I told him. “You are an answer to prayer! I was praying for a miracle!”

“Me, too,” said Scott.

Sherman raised his pointer finger up. “Wasn’t me,” he said. “That was God.”

I was crying by this point. Dave followed Sherman to thank him again. He tried to give him a gift to thank him, but Sherman refused. Dave found a manager and told him what Sherman had done. A few days later I visited Portillo’s website and filed a formal statement of gratitude.

As we left Portillo’s that night, one of my fifth-grade twins said, “Hey, that was a God sighting!”

“Yeah,” said the other twin. “I’m going to write it in my notebook at school! This week I won’t have to think and think to remember one.”

“They happen every day!” I reminded them. “We just don’t always have our ‘eyes’ open enough to see them.”

I hung back to where Judy was walking with Emily. I hugged her. “Don’t beat yourself up,” I said. “You didn’t do anything wrong, and God just gave you and all of us a miracle. Give yourself over to it and rejoice!”

She nodded, tears still in her eyes.

Thank you, Sherman! Thank You, God, for having him in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time so he could be a testimony of Your faithfulness and greatness to us.

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