Accidentally donated my keys into the metal bins…along with a happy ending

Do you know that split second feeling you get after you’ve forgotten something after it’s too late, locked yourself out, dropped something in public without knowing, or in my case a few days ago, accidentally donating your keys into the stand-alone metal donation bin?

After running around the mall picking up some chocolate and things like that, I decided to drop off bags of kid’s outgrown clothes and shoes into the bins. It was located towards one of the mall’s parking lot exits. Although parking is available here, it’s mainly used for cars going in and out. It was a bit eery to stop, but it was the last thing to do on my list before I go home to relieve the babysitter.

Well, clumsy as I am, I pulled down the metal lever to open the metal claw opening to insert the bags. It was cold, I was a bit hurried, and with so much going through my mind of what I had left to do that afternoon, I put the bags into the chute not realizing that I was holding the keys in my hand along with the bags, I let go of the lever to close.

Immediately, I felt a sense of panic going through my mind. Did I just let go of my keys? No, I couldn’t have done that? Maybe I did; I got that weird sense that something was off. Well, I could have left them on the seat. Praying and hoping that I did.

Test: If the engine starts, then the key fob is in the car. But instead of the engine starting, I got a ding sound and indication that key is too far away. I searched everywhere thinking that I overlooked it. I searched under the seats, the trunk, my purse, my pant’s pockets, under kid’s car seats, and even the trash bag in the car.

Then reality hit me: OMG! I had thrown my keys into the chute. This was a metal bin and not a drop-off center where an attendant takes your donations. It looked dire. Only an 800 number was listed that asked to leave a message. I left 2 sad messages expecting the listener to hackle at my carelessness.

It was fearful to sit alone in an unused part of the parking lot. I couldn’t leave my car there as it might look abandoned, get towed, or vandalized. I hadn’t even parked properly as it was just a drop and go situation. It was weird to stay in the car too. The walk to the mall would take me about seven minutes and it wasn’t a good choice either.

I was angry at myself for making this dumb mistake. I was so preoccupied calling myself an idiot that I forgot to pray in this emergency.

Thankfully Chris was in town and in the office. He told me he’d go home to pick up my keys, pick up the kids, and drive to the mall in 5 p.m. traffic. Stay put and he’ll be there in an hour. He was in rescue mode and his planning mindset got to work right away. So grateful for this trustworthy spouse of mine.

While I was waiting in the car, I texted my good friend telling her about the situation. I kept going on and on berating myself for this carelessness and she said she was praying for me and for the holy spirit to cover me with safety and peace. Oh right?! How could I forget the greatest power in this situation?

I didn’t like staying in the car, so I put on my jacket and scarf and stood by the parking lot entrance. This is when I noticed that on the other far side of the donation bin were brown mobile containers. I thought it was storage and little did I expect a person to come out and lock the fence gates to this part with a metal chain. It seemed like he was locking up for the evening to go home.

I asked him if he knew when the donations were picked up. He said that they are terrible about returning phone calls since he called them a few times to get a copy of their surveillance tapes: some people have been cutting through the metal fence and stealing his work equipment. *quick update: a representative did return my call an hour later. Thank you for the concern!

Great, I thought. I’ll have to replace my keys and go through all the trouble of doing that this holiday season. Wasn’t it enough that back in October 2019 I jammed and broke the garage door system by accidentally opening the car trunk door simultaneously with the garage?

I expected him to say ‘good luck’ and drive away. Instead, he went to his car bringing out a small flashlight to check if my keys were indeed in the bin. The bin seemed so overwhelmingly big that I didn’t even think about looking into it until he suggested it.

The light showed that my keys were on the floor to one side without anything surrounding it. The old donations were bagged up and separated on one side. My bags were new additions so the ground was clear except for mine.

Then, this guy did an unforgettable kind thing for me. He told me to wait while he drove to the mall to get something to fish it out. In that time, Chris came and I burst out crying in relief. I told him about this stranger and what he planned to do.

Both guys twisted the bendable wire into a fishing hook and they went to work. Johnny, that’s the guy’s name, even got a bucket to stand on while Chris held the flashlight steady. About 30 minutes later I heard these guys cheering and they turned around smiling. I cried again.

What an evening but I was able to be blessed through this person’s act of kindness. It would’ve been so easy for him to overlook my plight, but he took the time to notice and helped out. We asked him if we could take him to dinner but he refused saying that the chocolate we gave him was enough.

It was a beautiful encounter in a chaotic situation. So thankful that God brings people to my rescue when I least expect it. I wish I weren’t in that position, but it was too late to regret and complain. I follow an amazing God who leaves His hand prints all over my life and He works in and through people. Kindness is truly a blessing and I will always remember this when I pass by those bins again.

Working hard to fish out the keys.

Must slow down and learn to enjoy the real reason for this Christmas season: the birth of Jesus. This incident was a good and timely reminder that all this holiday pressure and busyness keep me from thinking about my faith and what’s really important in my life. And a small act of kindness can change lives and inspire hope. Johnny will never see this, but I just want to thank him again for taking the time to notice and helping!!

Merry Christmas everyone!! Stay well, healthy, and safe!

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

11 thoughts on “Accidentally donated my keys into the metal bins…along with a happy ending

  1. Esther, I love love love love love this post…. miss you guys and thank you so much for writing diligently. Your stories really inspire me!

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    • Thank you so much!! I feel so happy that this story inspired you. When I was going through it, I was a mess. My phone battery was at 67% at that time.
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. It was an awful experience but I’m glad the kids were not with me. I miss you too! Let’s get together soon and share stories. Happy holidays to you and your family!!

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