I don’t think I am alone in feeling lost and hopeless, given the news lately. I am specifically speaking about the shootings in Paris. I am generally speaking about fear, hatred, isolation and intolerance. It’s easy to feel both foolish and incredibly naïve if you believe that, being a kind bright light, makes any difference at all.

Still, we move uncertainly forward, working on letting go: of stuff and attitudes and patterns that feed the darkness. Trying to be better people. Working on light instead of dark. Hoping it is possible. So, a small story:

Yesterday my daughter lost her cell phone. She moves between two houses, so the cell phone is a practical communication tool. It’s also a symbol of her own growing independence and maturity. Yesterday, in a rush to get to school on time, she quickly threw it in the top of her almost-but-not-quite-closed backpack and raced to the bus stop.

When I picked her up later that day, she was clearly upset. She’d made a list of where it could be (having torn apart her locker at school, reported it as lost to the school office and checked the classrooms). We searched the house, my car and the area around the bus stop. Twice. The second time she crawled around in PJs and a parka…shining the flashlight on the icy road and deep snowbanks.

Before bed, we activated the “find my phone” feature on the computer, to discover her lost phone was turned off, a black dot on the map of the world.

That’s when she broke down, crying in a way that only kids can. What a release to just have a good, sobbing, shuddering cry. It’s the breakdown before the breakthrough.

And yes, I know, it is a phone. Which is what I told her as she turned off the light. Whatever importance we place on things, these are objects, not people. It can be replaced (although she’d have to do that herself). We also spoke about the likelihood of it being returned. Our home had been broken into two years ago, so we had some understanding of “how things are”. It felt like a deep, teachable moment.

This morning there was a note on my twitter account, @davebeniger had found a phone in a snowbank, carried it inside and placed it in some rice. Hours later he turned it on and there was our “find my phone” message.

My daughter raced upstairs and grabbed her 50.00 Christmas money as a reward. I dropped her off at school, and then went to meet our social media Good Samaritan.

Imagine cheerfully opening opening the door in your PJs! He accepted no money and was, as they say, just happy to help.

Back in the car, a mini mommy cry. @davebeniger’s good deed momentarily restored my faith in decency, kindness and the importance of lighting up our limited spheres of influence.

And here is the way the Universe works. At least for me.

After wiping my eyes and pulling it together, I stopped by my local coffee house for a latte. There was an older man chatting with Adam-the-Barista who politely stepped aside as I approached the counter. I opened my wallet to pay and he smiled, “No, this is on me. With all the darkness in the world right now, it’s important we really practice random acts of kindness.” (And no fellow cynics, I am not making this up). Did he, at some level, sense my belief in the importance of small deeds had been waning? That my uber cynical news junkie self was decrying the value of random acts of kindness? Did @davebeniger?

This is grace and good fortune. Let’s continue to “Pay it forward”. For me that’s writing, shining the light on my own fear and intolerance and darkness. And maybe, by sharing my experience, it might resonate. If only for one person. Thank you @davebeniger and the coffee shop angel.

And thank you to all the bright lights who shine in a world that desperately needs light. Thank you. PS expect coffee.