One's Family's Predicament

Quite a few years ago some friends of mine went interstate for a combined holiday and church convention. Their destination was Australia's Gold Coast, an area famous for its fabulous miles of golden beaches, with broad expanses of sand, and a terrific climate. (If you don't believe me, come and see for yourself! You will be glad you did.)

Colin, Jan and the family arrived after a long (10 hours or more) drive, checked into their accommodation, changed their clothes, and immediately headed down to the beach, to enjoy a refreshing swim in the bracing breakers. With the three children, they drove down to the beach in the late afternoon, locked the car, grabbed their beach towels, and headed for the water.

To be certain that the car keys and the keys to their flat were safe and not stolen from their towels and thongs left on the beach, Colin pinned securely the bunch of keys to his swimming costume. The family enjoyed their swim, and as usual, finally extracted the children with difficulty from the surf. As the shadows lengthened on the beach, they headed back to their beach towels, footwear and headed for the car.

Colin reached for the bundle of keys, and to his dismay, found they were missing. They must have dropped into the surf during all the jostling with those breakers! What could he do now? The family was in a new and different state of Australia, and where they did not know the address of anybody (without consulting some information that was in their locked accommodation.) The only keys to their car and accommodation had disappeared. They didn't have any money in the car, and they couldn't even make a phone call to the motorist's association who could open their car in this emergency. But, even if they opened their car, they still needed keys for their accommodation.

They were starting to get cold, and all their clothes were ... you know where! And, were the children hungry? You know that, too! They really needed to find that missing bunch of keys. But, just where? The beach they were on extends for literal miles, and the broad and gently sloping sands meant that the breakers started quite some distance from the beach, and washed up to the waters edge: a vast area of breaking waves. With the ceaseless action of these waves stirring the sand, a bundle of keys would quickly sink, and work their way down too deep to ever be found. Maybe, in the years to come, the rusted remnants might be washed ashore by a storm, but waiting for this was hardly an appealing thought.

Colin could try wading around in the water, hoping in vain that he could tread on and discover the keys. But, if ever anyone would be attempting to find the needle in the haystack, this futile action would have about as much probability of succeeding.

As they were Christians, Colin and the family prayed. Pretty fervently, I would imagine. Still, confused at precisely what options they could pursue, the family wandered up and down the beach. It was now rapidly becoming deserted and darkening, except for the occasional fisherman, with their lines far out in the surf, away from the areas set aside for swimming.

As Colin walked by one fisherman, he was winding in his line with some anticipation. He had caught something on his line. As the fisherman brought the hook out of the water, a collection of keys were dangling. And whose keys were they? Those who are mathematically inclined might like to try to calculate the possibilities of such a recovery, but many of us would not like to bank on such an eventuality ever returning our keys.

You can only guess to some extent how thrilled the family was, and how excitedly they shared with many others the story of their swim!

D'Arcy Watson, who writes from Australia

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