I imagine that, growing up, most of us had something we were notorious for losing. For me, that something was my house keys. I don’t know why, but I lost so many keys that I developed increasingly elaborate ways to break into my parents’ home so I (hopefully) wouldn’t get caught and inevitably pay for another set. 

Mom and Dad, please know that I’m still sorry for leaving the ladder perched outside of the side window.

Happily, it’s now become quite rare for me to lose my keys. And as I sit inside sheltering in place, I’m left reminiscing about a pair of keys that have no chance of getting lost because I currently have nowhere to go. Instead of that being depressing, it reminds me how lucky I am to be a part of this amazing town, and all because of a pair of keys.

Three years ago, I was home from college for summer break. Upon getting back one afternoon, I realized I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. While not a disaster, I was particularly disappointed because not only did it hold all of my keys and library card, but I had gone multiple years without incident and knew this meant the end of any reputational improvements.

After wondering whether I could still fit through the window, an incredible thing happened. I received an email from a clerk at the Chicago Public Library, who let me know that a pair of keys had been found in Oak Park and turned in to the police department there.

After ecstatic jumping, it struck me what needed to happen for me to get my keys back. First, someone had to not only pick up my keys but to then go and turn them in. Second, the employee at the police department had to realize that my Chicago Public Library card meant that I could be identified and then go out of his or her way to contact the library. Third, that library clerk would have to look me up and then write that dance-invoking email which allowed me to pick up my keys the following day.

Sadly, we all find ourselves today with concerns much greater than where our phone, keys, or wallet are. I know people are scared for their health, their loved ones’ health, whether their savings account can outlast this pandemic. But what I also know is that we truly do have each other’s backs. That support is real, it is happening, and it will continue for as long as we need each other to be there. 

I think it’s easier to feel a little lost these days, as I know I do. But like anything we struggle to find, we are never alone within that space. There are always others who want to go the extra mile. While none of us know when this will be over, I am thankful that I can look out for others, knowing they’re looking out for me. 

Meghan McCoy has been an Oak Park resident for the majority of her 24 years. She works at a nonprofit downtown and looks forward to the day when we can all give each other hugs again.

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