Returning a Stranger’s Wallet

I got a call from our daycare saying Loyal was lethargic and had a fever. I happened to drive to work today, so I left to go get them.

About a block from the daycare, I saw a wallet in the middle of the road. It was very clearly a wallet. Money sticking out and everything. I stopped the car, in the middle of the road, and examined it. I didn’t see anyone in the vicinity who it could have belonged to. The license was for a man with a local address.

I popped back in the car and picked up my boys. Indeed, Loyal was flushed and somber. I got them both in the car, and decided to drop off the wallet at the address on the license. Or at least I’d try to determine if the guy actually lived there. I didn’t know how I’d know this.

It was about a 15 minute drive. Rush hour was starting up. Loyal looked peaked in his car seat. I pulled up to the address and it was an apartment building. I found the correct unit and rang the doorbell. The apartment was dark and he was not likely to be home. There was a mail slot in the door and I debated.

As I stood there, the apartment door next door opened. I asked, “Do you know your neighbor?” They guy kind of shrugged. “Sorta.”

I asked, “His name is Mark?”

“Mike, I think.”

I pulled out the license. “This guy?”

The neighbor looked. “Oh yeah, that’s him.”

“Awesome.” I stuffed the wallet through the mail slot. I got back in the car and wondered at the crazy story that guy would have. Imagine the horror of losing your wallet. Retracing steps. Finding it gone. Canceling cards, etc. Then finding it mysteriously lying on the floor of your apartment.

I drove home in rush hour traffic, which in Portland, meant it took maybe an extra minute. However, Loyal coughed, then coughed again, then puked effusively all over himself. I tried to soothe him from the front seat, and assure him it was okay. And he looked at me with his quiet, doleful eyes.

I cursed myself for not going home immediately. Poor sick kid. We got home and I ran to get a towel to wipe him down. I scooped him up, but held him at arms length as I hurried back into the house. Got clean PJs on him and gave him and his brother a snack. He seemed to feel better.

Loyal climbed up into my lap with a book and we cuddled a bit. It’s awful when you have sick kids. But they sure do like to cuddle.

When I had a moment, I googled the wallet guy. It was not a strenuously unusual name, so the results were dilute. I added the address from the license. He popped up immediately. His address, a work history and an email.

Subject: wallet

Hi Mark,

I bet you’re going to find it strange your wallet appeared in your mail slot. I found it on SE XXX between 52nd and 54th in the middle of the street. It wasn’t too far to drive, so I dropped it off after confirming with one of your neighbors that you still lived at 30XX SE XXX. I found your email after googling your name and address. Have a great day!

I felt a little better. I didn’t want accolades or a parade. I just wanted to give him some clarity on how his wallet ended up back at his house.

I got an email back not long after. He thanked me, of course, but then he wrote something that made my heart sink like lead: “You saved me. I am flying tomorrow to go to my son’s funeral. My god, the world is kind.”

He’s a stranger. We’ve never met. But it hurt so much to hear a father say he was attending his son’s funeral. The world is cruel and disordered. I sat with my own son, feverish and demanding that I read him a book. He’s such a small, little thing.

I emailed the wallet guy back. I was happy to help. Such an easy thing for me, to save such a huge hassle for someone else, especially considering the circumstances. I was sorry to hear about his son. I wished him well.

One word came back.


It really, really was not a hard thing to do. Besides that my kid puked all over himself in the car. I saw the wallet in the road and I was relieved, RELIEVED, that I found it. Because I would return it intact. It was not hard. It’s what I would hope someone would do for me. It was what any decent person would do.

And I was just so happy that I could do small thing that reduced his hurt even a little. The world is kind.

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