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The following was written by Kerry Harding for the “Missionary Moment” series curated by Mark Albright.
I’m the kind of guy that, when I find something that works for me, I like it to always be there. To me, the expression “change happens” is not a good thing. I don’t like it when my favorite products are discontinued; my favorite restaurant changes its menu or a beloved missionary gets transferred.
In this need for stability in my life, one of the sources of great comfort is my ability to establish and maintain relationships with all of the different suppliers of goods and services I need and to then stick with them. Dry cleaners, service stations, barbers, printers—I like being greeted by name when I go into a store. The same is true for my photo finishing.
My pictures are one of my most important possessions. My photo albums chronicle the intersection of events, places and people that have tremendously enriched my life. I even keep film negatives and back-up cds of digital images in my safe deposit box.
Thus, it was with great sadness that I learned a couple of weeks ago that yesterday was going to be the last day for Moto Photo’s Bethesda store, a casualty of the digital age.
Since 1994, I had gone to this same store about twice a week. The owner and I had become friends. I knew all of the employees by name—and they knew me. Through the years, my loyalty paid off. Sometimes, they stayed late to print out pictures for me. Other times, they would do special things as favors. Once, they printed 400 missionary Christmas cards at their cost.
Last year, the day after a ward baptismal service, I had gone into the store to print out pictures of the service for the participants. When I got into the store, I discovered that, somewhere between there and the car, I had dropped the memory card from my camera. I went out and retraced my steps. For two hours I scoured every inch along the route I had taken—and turned up nothing. Part of that route included a large grate covering a storm sewer. After failing to find the item, I sadly concluded that it must have fallen through the grate into the pool of brackish water below. I was crestfallen. I had been the only one to take pictures at the service—and now they were gone forever.
A week later I went back to drop off some different pictures. As I was walking to the store from my car. I prayed, “Heavenly Father, I know this might be a lot to ask for and it’s a real long shot but it would be great if I could find my memory card.” As I approached the area of the alley near the storm grate I started looking around. The manager of Moto Photo was standing in the alley taking a break and, after watching me for a few minutes, asked “Are you looking for something, Mr. Harding?” “Yeah,” I replied. “I was just still hoping I might find the memory card I lost last week.” “You’ll never find it,” she said. “But, even if you did, with as many trucks that have been in the alley this week and all the rain, it wouldn’t work anyway.” “You’re probably right,” I said, as my eyes swept back and forth along the ground. “I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to look one more time and see if I could find it.” “Well, lotsa luck!” she said skeptically.
No sooner had she said this when I exclaimed “Hey! I found it!” Sure enough, there, nestled in an inch-square indentation in the corner of the grate was my little half-inch by three-quarter-inch memory card. “There’s no way it’s gonna work.” said the manager. I picked it up and ran into the store. Gently inserting the drive, I held my breath. Then, to my amazement, all of the pictures started loading – five, ten, twenty-five. Soon, all 242 images on the disk had loaded into the computer. “This is your lucky day!” exclaimed the manager. “If I were you, I’d run out right now and buy a lottery ticket!.” I laughed and, looking up, said, “I guess somebody up there likes me!” Inside, I said a silent prayer of gratitude for the Lord answering my simple prayer. It was a moment I will treasure forever.
As I reminisced about Moto Photo this week, I realized that I was more upset about the closing of a store than I was about the missed opportunity of sharing the gospel with my friends there. For years, my buddies at Moto Photo developed pictures of me and for me taken at a variety of church-related activities. They saw elders accompany me in the store on numerous occasions and, at times, some had even remarked, “So you’re a Mormon!”
Given that entre, you would think I’d have taken advantage of the conversation to continue it further with some sort of invitation. In all of those years, I never did.
Alma 37:6 says “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. In my case, it was something as small as a memory card. I hope I’ll end up being a better missionary when a future opportunity presents itself than I was this go round.