From the Blog

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.

Angel.

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.

Comments

  1. I miss you.

    And you are super cool.

  2. First…welcome back…a little surprise seeing a new blog post in my feed.

    Second…from someone on the other side of the lost wallet in the road. Thank you.

    My story isn’t as tragic as his but this was mine last summer…picture losing your transmission with three kids (and no other adults) in the car on the first day of a two week road trip in California…oh and oh yeah in 110 degree weather. Fortunately had cell phone reception and AAA and a tow truck with air conditioning responded quickly. And after almost a day in scenic Red Bluffs I was able to get a rental car that could hold all three car seats, so we could move onto the bay area while the car was being fixed.

    Fast forward a couple days. The transmission is fixed so back to Red Bluffs with the kids in tow. We stopped for gas when we were about 100 miles away. 20 miles later I realized my wallet wasn’t in the car. I guessed that I left it at the gas station and started to panic. While I was turning around my phone rang. AAA was calling with the contact info of a trucker who found my wallet. He was headed my way so I didn’t need to backtrack. 20 minutes later I was reunited with my wallet in a Taco Bell parking lot. He didn’t find it at the gas station-he saw it in the freeway on ramp. I think I put my wallet on the side of the truck bed. Between driving a different car, having to pump my own gas and rushing to make the rental car deadline I was so out of sorts I drove off without grabbing my wallet. And how brilliant of him to think about my AAA card when he finds an Oregon license in the middle of California.

    To top it off the guy apologized for going through my wallet in effort to get it back to me. I was so out of sorts I offered him nothing but a very sincere thank you. I realized later that I did at least have his cell number so texted him more about our last week and how much his efforts meant to my family and asked for his address so I could send him something. I also told him it was an amazing lesson for my kids to learn. He texted back (later when he wasn’t driving) and told me he forwarded my text to his wife so she could read it while he was driving. In his text he told me about his situation. He had just started his truck driving career and that my well wishes was enough but it was his daughter’s 7th birthday that week, so if I wanted to send her something that would be nice and that she also learned an important lesson as she was listening while his wife read the text. I sent an Amazon gift card with some cards the kiddos drew.

    Fast forward to last week and as I was checking an FB message I thought to click on that other link that takes you to your junk box and there was a message from the guy’s wife from a month ago. She thanked me for the card and told me she finally used it. Her husband couldn’t talk on the phone with her because he just lost his bluetooth. So even though he told her to save the card for the kids she used it to get a new headset for him and was very grateful. And my kids still talk about the nice guy that found my wallet. It’s nice to have your faith in humanity restored occasionally and a reason to hug those little boys tighter tonight (even if they still smell a little like puke).

  3. Such a nice feeling to help someone out without expecting a “reward”, isn’t it? You *are* an angel!

    My husband lost his wallet while mountain biking in Santa Fe awhile back. We retraced our path, but nothing. After getting back to the place we were staying and determining the order we’d call and cancel cards, but before doing that, we got a Facebook message from a friend in Boston. It said, “A man in Santa Fe just called me…he has your wallet.” Seems he found our friend’s business card in the wallet and called him!

    We high-tailed it to the finder’s house about an hour drive away. He wouldn’t accept any reward. The $40 cash that had been in the wallet was gone, and the finder said the credit cards and other things were strewn all over the bike trail when he found it. Obviously someone just wanted the money and left everything else.

    We were so incredibly thankful as we were on vacation (a long, long road trip), and the loss of my husband’s driver’s license would have been especially difficult, not to mention the credit cards. Thank the gods that there are honest people in this world — like you!

  4. Judith M. Rollenhagen says:

    Hi!! I just saw you on AOL. I also have fraternal twins. They, my husband and I have survived 30 years!!! I loved having two such different yet alike guys to watch growing up and the development tasks they achieved at different times!! And I Still have folks say “they can’t be twins, they don’t look alike”!!! My mink-wearing mother fixed those unknowing people by replying “They had separate fathers”. Shuts them up right away!!! I had to stop saying that when they were in middle school!! Now they are best friends, one a Naval Flight Officer, the other a college professor!! They are still egged on by their older sis!! I was so lucky I had her first!! I am very blessed!! And boys always love their moms best!!! Luck to you!! Judy

  5. Michael Lewallen says:

    It was great to see your new post.. Portland is fortunate to have you here. Onward with the men in your life, they are the real lucky ones!
    Michael

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