09 April 2010

Fingerprint Friday

Lost in SpaceTo me, the word lost doesn’t evoke thoughts of reality television. There are lost relatives. Lost loves. Lost patterns. Lost marbles. I’ve even almost lost a camera a time or two.

Lost, though, takes on a whole new meaning in the workplace.

We’d been looking for a file at work for two weeks. The previous fall, we had completed all the necessary research, interviews and required applications to request tax-exempt status for a center set up by a man whose son had died of cancer. The man wanted to provide, in memory of his son, shelter and other comforting services for the families of cancer patients displaced by lengthy treatment or hospitalization.

With income tax filing deadlines looming, the search for this particular file was becoming more and more intense. We needed to contact the appropriate person to determine the status of our application, which normally takes 120 days but currently was taking more than double that.

The man was subject to the same deadlines all working taxpayers face. With less than a week remaining before his April 16 deadline (because April 15 fell on a weekend that year), he was beginning to panic.

Copies of everything we’d done had at one time been in my possession, but I never allow my filing to pile up. I regularly send documentation to be filed to the appropriate party as soon as my department has completed its work.

After we file a tax-exemption request, we typically receive an acknowledgment letter with a case number and a contact person. I remembered receiving the letter for this particular case, and I remembered sending it to be filed.

But now the file was lost. Gone. Nowhere to be found. The black hole of filing.

The person responsible for this particular file claimed never to have seen it. Searches were conducted of various offices and workspaces. The file still has never been located, even now, years later.

After conducting yet one more search of my own office, the man called us once again.

“What should I do? Haven’t you been able to find out anything yet? I’m running out of time.”

He was a good man, and he was trying to do a good thing. He didn’t deserve to be put under such pressure. He didn’t need to be distracted from the service he was trying to offer and perform.

My supervisor asked me to find a phone number, any phone number, of someone he could speak to at the government agency without the mandatory case number. I searched the entire charitable organization section of the agency website, looking for the phone number of the office where we’d sent the original application via overnight delivery six months earlier. I even looked in the files of similar applications, hoping I might find a current and useful phone number, but all I could unearth was a general number. I presented the number to my supervisor with my most humble apology, knowing full well he did not have the luxury to spend hours on hold waiting for someone to try to look up the scant information we would be able to provide without copies of our application.

Discouraged, I decided to take a lunch break. I went to the dressing room and changed into my workout clothes and then took the elevator all the way to the ground floor. Within seconds, I was climbing in the musty, hot and dimly lit stairwell where I always seem to do some of my deepest thinking. By the third flight, I realized that in the two weeks I’d spent turning over every piece of paper I came across while searching for the lost file, I had not bothered to pray about my dilemma.

Stairway to HeavenImmediately my thoughts turned heavenward. I explained to my Heavenly Father that I had looked everywhere, and that others in different areas had searched, too. I asked if this file still existed, that I might be prompted so I could find it. I asked if this file was in a place where it might be found, could He please help us find it.

Before I knew it, I was at the top of the stairwell. I’d been so intent in my prayer, I’d hardly noticed the climb.

Back at my desk half an hour later, I was stirring a cup of noodles when one of the employees from our records center approached with a stack of paperwork.

“I can’t find the missing file,” he said, “but I did find some things you’d sent to be placed in that file. I couldn’t put it in the jacket because the file is missing. I thought maybe you might be able to find what you need if I brought these back to you.”

My first instinct was to jump for joy and scream loudly, but because such behavior is inappropriate in the workplace, I graciously thanked him and then began sifting through the meticulously organized paperwork. Everything was just where it should be, just not in the file. Notes, background, research, a copy of the original application, everything. Everything but the acknowledgment letter containing the contact person and the case number.

One sheet of paper. All I needed was one simple letter containing just a couple of cookie cutter paragraphs, and it wasn’t in the stack.

I sat back in my chair to try to remember what I’d done with that acknowledgement letter back in October. I’d taken a vacation in October. Maybe I hadn’t really seen the letter after all. Maybe it got lost because it never got to me.

Maybe it had accidentally been picked up with a stack of filing destined for a different client or filed under an erroneous client number. Maybe if I went back through everything our office had done six months earlier, I could see what other files had been worked on during that time, and I could search those files.

The magnitude of the search I was about to undertake hadn’t fully hit me when the young man from the records center returned with a single sheet of paper attached to a small blue filing slip.

“Here, I found one more,” he said. “It was in a different place.”

I stared at the paper in disbelief that slowly morphed into gratitude and sheer amazement grander than I’d felt in many months. Right beneath my own handwriting on the blue filing slip was the case number and the contact person’s name and phone number. It was the acknowledgement letter for which I’d been searching!

where, oh, whereWithin ten minutes, my supervisor was on the phone with the contact person. Later, he was on the line with the man with advice on what to do next. The deadline still loomed, and that wouldn’t make the work easy, but it would be done on time.

I don’t often think to pray at work when I can’t find something, but this experience taught me that maybe I should consider incorporating that soothing step more frequently. Perhaps a little earlier in the process instead of waiting for desperation to settle in.

If God knows each of the lilies of the field, doesn’t it stand to reason that surely He knows every sheet of typing paper, too?


  1. God is so freaking awesome! =] I love this! God always knows where everything is.

    Btw, thank you for your comment on my blog (yulian-dreams.blogspot.com) but I rarely ever post pictures on there anymore. The pictures are all on my Wordpress blog. =]

  2. Very powerful stuff. More often than not, I have found my higher power will lead me through my 'instincts'. Which I did not believe were true, and could not be followed for many years.

    It's a daily thing for me.

  3. Thank you for sharing this experience!!! What a wonderful testimony of prayer!!!

    I love that you said this, "I’d been so intent in my prayer, I’d hardly noticed the climb." Beautiful words. (In fact, I'm going to tweet it and quote you.) Just beautiful.

    While reading your experience, I thought of a scripture in 2nd Nephi (32:9):
    "But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."

    Nothing is too small for the Lord.

  4. That's right, we sometimes forgot that God knows everything :-)
    Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Lovely, lovely, story. What a testimony of the power of pray not just praying but getting answers too.

  6. God DOES answers prayers, even the smallest!




Dusty words lying under carpets,
seldom heard, well must you keep your secrets
locked inside, hidden deep from view?
You can talk to me... (Stevie Nicks)

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