My vocation requires I obtain continuing education credits. When I learned of an educational tour to England, I combined my lifelong dream to visit England with education. I invited others to join me on this pilgrimage. Two adventurous women did. Arriving at Heathrow Airport, we joined the other Americans traveling with us. This is our story.
This was my first time to travel overseas. Shirley had visited England the previous year and was excited to show me the attractions of England. Carol, who had traveled to England a few days ahead of us, met us in downtown London. We were on an educational tour and anticipated ten days of learning and fun. Following lunch, we three (musketeers or stooges?) walked to Parliament Bridge. Walking along, Carol pointed out Westminster Abbey. Shirley noted Parliament and Big Ben. To this novice overseas traveler, everything was new and interesting. I had just finished taking a picture of Parliament when I heard Shirley shriek,
“My wallet! My wallet’s gone!” In a terrified voice, Shirley declared.
Carol and I turned and looked at her. Usually Shirley never showed fear, but she was visible shaken. Carol and I were stunned.
“What do you mean?” I quizzed.
"I’d just taken a picture of the London Eye. Putting my camera back in my purse I noticed my wallet was missing” She was both dazed and angry. “I felt someone bump me and I excused myself. Now my wallet was gone.” She paused as the facts sank in. As she hesitated, terror gripped her. “Oh, no.” The color drained from her face. She added, “My credit card is gone.”
Carol and I tried to calm her.
“Let’s go back to the cafeteria. Maybe you left it there.” We rushed back to the cafeteria, but it was to no avail. We had to accept the fact: the wallet was gone. I recalled, Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Although Fagin and the Artful Dodger, were fictional characters, they seemed to have come to life that day in England.
“You’ve got to report the theft to the credit card company,” I said.
Shaken, but resolutely, Shirley placed a call to her husband. He was quite compassionate and assured her he would report the theft. He urged her to have a good time in spite of the circumstance.
Carol was telling us about the Broadway shows she’d seen before when arrived when Shirley exclaimed,
“I’m in England and I don’t have any money. What am I going to do?” The frustration and realization of having had her wallet stolen were sinking in. “What am I going to do?” She asked.
My eyes widened and my eyebrows lifted. Shrugging my shoulders and I replied, “Well, I guess you’ll have to use my credit card.” With that solved, Shirley resolutely declared,
“Oh, all right! Let’s have fun.”
Have fun is exactly what we did for the next ten days.
While at Covent Gardens, we discovered a small shop selling a variety of flavors of fudge. What do women love? Chocolate. It didn’t take long for Shirley to take advantage of my credit card. Fudge? Of course, we had to have fudge. Oh, it was so good!
It was fun to watch the straight-laced English people as a woman nearly twenty years my senior asked for my credit card. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
As a strong-willed, determined lady, Shirley put on a brave face. Most of the people on the tour with us were unaware of the theft. Gradually we became companions and friends with the other pilgrims. As they saw me paying for Shirley’s packages and meals, their curiosity was piqued. Some began asking about the arrangement.
Proud Shirley explained, “The first day in England, someone took my wallet. I’ve had no money or credit cards, so Judy’s paid for everything.” Although she was laughing about it, she was still having nightmares about the ordeal. Later that day a companion handed Shirley a card, inside was some money. Gradually others learned of Shirley’s plight and began sharing their money with her.
Shirley understood the words of Joseph when he confronted his brothers, “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good.” (Genesis 50:19-21, The Message) Although a proud woman, Shirley’d learned from the kindness of strangers. And she learned God will provide even in seemingly difficult situations.
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