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Hope in a Backpack... The Story We All Need to Read Right Now

The past 11 months have been hard on us all. We’ve navigated circumstances none of us could have foreseen and endured trial after trial. While 2021 hasn’t exactly felt like the complete exhale we all wanted, it already has shown glimmers of hope.

For Garrett Lee, that glimmer of hope is a backpack.

Image courtesy of Garrett Lee.

November 13, 2020. Garrett went to work as he always did at the Fort Church. The only thing unusual about his day was hosting the church’s podcast that night which is normally hosted by the pastor. He entered the podcast room, placed his backpack down, plugged his computer in, and worked getting materials ready for that evening leaving once for a 20-minute coffee break at 4:00 p.m.

When he returned he noticed nothing unusual until he began to gather his things together so he would be able to leave swiftly after the podcast was finished. One key element was not where he placed it; his backpack. “I started thinking about all the things I had in my backpack. I had medicine, tools, I mean it’s my daily life. Everything I need in a day is in my backpack. So I had to carry on with this live podcast, and I was just holding it together the best I could,” he said.

The podcast ended and Garrett ran circles around the building; podcast room, office, sanctuary, car, podcast room, office, sanctuary, car, searching in utter disbelief. “I started to realize the importance of what was in my bag,” said Garrett. In the backpack was a harddrive with the recordings of an album Garrett had been working on for the past two years. The album was nearing completion at the time the bag was taken and Garret was just about to transfer the recordings on that hard drive onto a new hard drive he had just purchased. The new hard drive? It was in his computer bag that was also in the podcast room which didn’t get taken.

Two years of work gone in an instant. Garrett left the church that night feeling violated and shocked.

He had another backup that he hoped would have most of the recordings on it, and yet, due to an unfortunate mishap, the recordings were just not there.

“I began to really realize everything was gone. I had a really old backup, but that would take us back to week one of recording when this has been two years in the making. It was an incredible feeling of loss. I had every emotion under the sun from anger, disappointment, hurt. This album had been one thing that through this pandemic I took joy in. I took joy in the fact that I was about to finish a project. I took joy in the feeling I was about to accomplish something. To know that's just completely stripped away by just an unreal set of circumstances, I was so beside myself,” said Lee.

The circumstances were in fact unusual. Garrett was at the church doing a job he normally wouldn’t do. The room he was in had one of the few doors that didn’t automatically lock when you close it, so when he left for coffee he didn’t think twice about it. Out of all the rooms in the church, all the items that could have been stolen, someone went upstairs into a random room and took something that could be of no value to them, but was everything to Garrett.

Garrett shared his story on social media and was moved by the outpouring of support. The story got 100s of shares and comments. Garrett called pawn shops, searched around town and even dug through dumpsters for the bag. “Weeks and weeks went by and I was just trying to cope with it. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn't feel like I lost a loved one; I was truly grieving over this thing,” said Lee.

A couple of days shy of two months, January 4, 2021, Garrett had just begun to start thinking of ways to move forward without the recordings. While in line at Starbucks with his wife, she received a text that read: “are you missing a backpack with some prescription medicine in it?”

“I had some prescription medicine in my backpack, and I just knew right away, my jaw dropped, I started shaking and I was like that’s my bag, that’s my bag,” said Lee, “But I tried to keep my cool, because I had just started moving forward and so I didn't even want to hope that my drive was in that bag.”

Garrett called the number and a man answered saying he was meeting to play softball with his friends, they have a retirement age softball team that they play for fun and they hadn't played for two months due to COVID-19. At the softball field, they noticed a black bag in a covered dugout. He went through it and found Lee’s wife’s number on a bottle of prescription medicine. “15 minutes later I was meeting him at a church parking lot. I was stopped at the red light across the street and I could see him getting out of his vehicle with that bag and I was like yeah that looks like my bag,” said Lee.

Once the backpack was in Lee’s hand the first thing he did was reach inside and could not believe it when he pulled out the hard drive. With shaking hands he held his two years of work to his chest. The backpack was dry. Not a single thing was missing.

“I was so caught up in the moment I realized I hadn’t even looked at the guy or asked his name. So I asked him, sir, what is your name and he said ‘Rick’ and I said ‘I just can't thank you enough’ and I explained to him what was in the bag, saying ‘This is just not supposed to happen. I mean this kind of thing just doesn't happen’. And he responded ‘well you know, God just loves you.’ And I said ‘I know he does, I know he does.’”

Lee once again turned to social media to tell his story and was overwhelmed by the community and how they showed him love and shared his burden. “The amount of love and support just reminded me that people care and people really do step into other people's situations to be there for one another,” said Lee.

Garrett’s story shines a bright spot when we could all use some hope. It’s not every day you get to read about a miracle.

Now Garrett is ready to finish the album and for everyone to hear it. Listening back to the recordings he thought were gone for good, he heard not only the special songs, but the special moments spent recording with friends and fellow musicians. Moments that could have been redone but never replicated. ◼︎

Check It Out!

Listen to the first few singles off of Garrett’s coming album “From the Ground Up” on Spotify here.


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