What’s in your wallet?

“What’s in your wallet?” – that’s the tagline of a credit card company trying to convince us that we need their product to successfully navigate the world. With this in your wallet, they proclaim, you can face any challenge.

          But that made me wonder – what else do we carry in our wallets?  What hidden treasures are held within this mundane carrying case?

          It reminds me of a time when I was helping my father-in-law fill out a pile of forms necessary to move into assisted living.  They needed lots of information – his driver’s license number, social security number, health insurance number.  Again and again, he would say, “I have that – it’s in my wallet.”  He handed me his wallet to look through.  As I was searching for the information, a small black and white photo dropped out.  It was a picture of his son,  my husband’s older brother who had passed away 15 years earlier.  My father-in-law grabbed the photo and at first looked almost angry, then maybe embarrassed.  Finally, this quiet and private man said to me, “I always carry him with me.”

          Since that time, whenever I encounter someone, I always wonder, “What’s in their wallet?”  What hurts are they carrying with them? Who are they missing? What is private and precious to them? Who is near and dear to their heart – hidden from view but always close to them?

          I try to let that thought influence my behavior when I encounter someone who is rude or surly, withdrawn or distant.  I try to wonder – what’s in their wallet?  What load might they be bearing? What unspoken truths do they carry with them?

          This is where the “love kindness” part of Micah’s dictate (Micah 6:8) comes in. We are commanded to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Every day we encounter many people.  I suspect all of them are yearning for kindness – or at least decency and respect. Every day we meet people who are carrying some burden with them. Without ever knowing what is in their wallet, we can endeavor to treat them with the kindness they deserve.