lost and found

I checked my account in the morning. I had $73.15. On the way home from work, I found a wallet. Inside were cash, about a dozen gift cards and several credit cards. I didn’t hesitate.

If you’ve ever lost your wallet or purse, you know how stressful the experience can be. The whole time you wonder who found it. Are they decent people? Will you spend several years fighting the identity theft that resulted in you absentmindedly leaving your wallet on your car before you drove off?

At some point you stop caring about the cash and start wishing someone would at least return your ID and credit cards. And that photo of you and your sweetie on your first date. Do you even have the negatives for that photo anymore? Ugh. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s pretty awful.

The first time I lost a wallet, I was a teenager. My social security card, license and my one “emergencies-only” credit card were inside. I had cash in there as well, but I was more concerned about the potential for identity theft. I would start college the next semester and spent the evening envisioning catastrophe for my future credit score. The convenience store where I lost it had footage of the man who came to the counter behind me and stole it, but his face was unclear. He was a regular, though. The next time he came in, the clerk told him he knew he stole a wallet, and he better return it.

Two days after my wallet disappeared, a USPS worker showed up at the house with the wallet. Someone had taken it to the post office and left it on the counter. The cash was gone, but everything else was inside. My parents gave the postal worker a wad of cash. He tried to give it back but they refused. He made our week!

The couple times I’ve lost my purse, someone has always been nice enough to keep it safe for me. I have a deep appreciation for good people who do the right thing.

I have found purses, wallets, signed checks and cell phones on multiple occasions. And I have always returned them to their rightful owner, even when it was inconvenient for me.

So… on the way home from work, I hurried to the bank to make a deposit so I could mail bills. I noticed the nursery in the next shopping center would be going out of business. I drove by slowly to see how many plants were left. I couldn’t really afford to get anything so I didn’t stop.

Then I noticed what looked like a camera bag in the street. Traffic was in a lull. I quickly parked the car and hopped out. If I lost my camera, I would want someone to save it from being run over. I hopped in my car and looked inside. Oh man, I thought, someone somewhere is panicking right now, trying to find their wallet.

When I got home, I opened the wallet and began looking for a name and some way to contact the owner. The wallet contained probably a dozen gift cards and $85 in cash. Never mind all the credit cards. I recognized an unemployment card inside. I was unemployed for nearly 18 months and the cards all feaure the same illustration. I have to find this lady. This could be all the cash she has for the rest of the month.

Then I found her license. Now I had an address. I hoped she would be home.

A couple hours after I found the wallet, my mom was turning onto her street with me in the passenger’s seat. I saw a burgundy sedan with all four doors open in the driveway. A man was stooped over the back seat, pulling out papers, folders and miscellaneous items. He stood quickly and looked our way. Then I saw her. The woman from the license. She was wild-eyed and slightly panicked looking. I held up the wallet and they both rushed toward us.

I told her the story of how and where I found the wallet as she breathlessly thanked me again and again. The man was also repeating his thanks. He said a car had passed slowly earlier and he told her to start praying a car would come soon with the person who found her wallet. “Here,” he said. “For gas. Just take it. Take it.” Now I was thanking him.

This couple was so thankful, so relieved. And I was thankful too. This was the first time anyone rewarded me for returning their lost item. They certainly didn’t have to. My mom and I headed to the snow cone stand to celebrate our good deed.

A nice lady was reunited with her belongings, feeling a huge sense of relief, knowing her identity (and financial information) was safe. And I had the wonderful feeling you get when you help someone and can tell they genuinely appreciate it. Oh, and I had the $20 they so kindly gave me.

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