Stories from the field

Day 2016-08-14

Joel Toorenburgh – Blog 3: The Difference a Day Makes

**Disclaimer: The following is personal blog based on my individual experience in Bangladesh.**

When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. 

– Billy Graham

Sometimes, things happen in life that we don’t understand. Once upon a time, Zach and I came to a sudden and horrid realization: we had neglected to take our shared backpack along with us. It had been left behind in a CNG taxi. The backpack contained both of our laptops including some invaluable files (pictures, stories, personal work) and other items. This fateful moment ushered in a panic that can only be described as “fight or flight.” Indeed, we fought and we ran hoping to find the CNG and reclaim our belongings. Such a state – where one loses all self-awareness – is fleeting. After some time in said stupor, we realized that we had to come to terms with the inevitable. With more two hundred thousands CNGs in the city, it was most likely that we would never see these things again. 

Fighting all desire to crawl into a ball and cry like a school-aged child, we decided that it would be best to go to the police station and make a report. In all honesty, the process was frustrating and long. The loss we felt was significant and my patience was lower than ever. We did our best to be polite, but we really just wanted to go in, make the report, and leave. Things don’t always go the way we want them to. 

Once we returned home, I entered into an unproductive mental state, feeling anger, depression, and frustration. We did what we could to keep ourselves distracted, but the evenings alone made it painstakingly clear what was missing. The WiFi went out that week and we were left disconnected, depressed and most devastatingly, without any distraction from reality. 


Time heals all wounds, unless you pick at them.

– Shaun Alexander


It’s perhaps cliché to say it, but in my experience, the idea that time heals all wounds has rung true. The pain feels acute and unbearable at first, but with time we come to terms with it, we find other things to think about, we adapt and move on. Perhaps, it’s inherently wired in us as humans to do this. It keeps us moving forward and looking ahead. With time upon us, our lives moved on. We made up the lost work. We found new distractions. We tried to make the past the past.


Out of difficulties, grow miracles 

– Jean de la Bruyère 


Weeks later, we found ourselves struggling to understand a voice on the other end of the phone. Eventually, we understood. It was the police. The police? Why?! We called a friend and asked them to speak with the officer for us. Eventually, and amazingly, it was confirmed that our laptops had supposedly been brought to the station. Afraid of more emotional damage, we cautioned ourselves to stay calm and manage our expectations. The next day, we would go and see what they had found. 

We entered into the police station greeting the investigating officer and the head of the department. They kindly seated us. We identified ourselves, and re-described the items we had lost. Eventually, a man emerged from a backroom with the backpack in hand. My soul danced. We examined the contents and everything was as it should be. The items were returned thanks to the tremendous kindness of the CNG driver  – a stranger – who went out of his way to return the items to us. The police seized his CNG for a day depriving him a day’s wages. 

Humans are capable of both terrible and terrific things. Everyday, we are bombarded with stories and realities of both. Once and a while, some one does something so wonderful that it overpowers all the terrible for just a moment. 

I find myself in that moment. I hope it lasts. 


No one has ever become poor by giving.

– Anne Frank 


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