When I was 20 years old, and a student at Valley City State we would take off for Bozeman Montana for a week in the spring for a ski trip. Being “bulletproof and invisible” we called our 555 mile drive the “champagne flight” and we’d pop a cork just minutes after hitting the road. There were friends to stay with, my new Honda got well over 40 mile per gallon and lift passes were only $12. Pizza and beer we were going to buy no matter where we were, so it was a low budget trip.
Even so, when after a fall on the slopes, I realized my wallet had fallen out of my jacket pocket. In it was all $60 I had for the remaining trip including getting back home. I was a little concerned. Back then, I had no credit cards of course, so aside from my driver’s license, three twenties and perhaps my student ID, there was nothing else in it. So, after poking holes in the snow with my ski pole all around where I’d fallen, I came to realize that, nope, my wallet wasn’t there. Must’ve lost it earlier. Oh well, I skied down, got back on a lift and headed for the top again.
When I got near the top, a small blackboard at the ranger shack bore these words: “Brian Reinbold stop in”. I did, and there I retrieved my wallet, exactly as I’d lost it.
At the time I was surprised, but then came to realize that this is normal. This is what to expect from people.
Years later I was in my office in Bismarck. This was perhaps twelve years ago. I got a phone call from the Bistro, a restaurant where I’d just had lunch. “We have your wallet” was all the woman said. A reflexive check of my jacket pocket confirmed that I didn’t have it. “I’ll be right there.” I said, and left. Ten minutes later, I’d recovered my wallet, with all the credit cards and licenses, etc. and $245 cash. Another customer found it in the parking lot and turned it in. I don’t even know who it was.
I would tell this story and people would be surprised, astounded even that my wallet was returned intact, particularly that all the cash was there. I am not surprised. People are good, wonderful even. What would you do if you found someone’s wallet? Wouldn’t everyone you know just return it to whoever lost it?
I began asking people this question, and I’d get an “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right” kind of response.
See, we’ve been conditioned to believe in the scarcity idea that says: People are bad. You can’t trust people. You can’t rely on anyone. Bull.
For a while I just chalked it up to “One of those great things about living in Bismarck North Dakota”. That is, until a couple of summer afternoons a few years ago in the City of Chicago.
Sherry and I were staying downtown and we’d been shopping on State street. We took a break at State and Wacker, right by the river at a building with windows set back in masonry walls such that we could comfortably sit on the ledge in front of the windows. We sat there and rested and leisurely talked for a while. It was hot and sunny, yet this spot was shady and cool, and the stone surface of the window frame was especially cool, inviting and relaxing. After we left, and had returned to our hotel a couple blocks away, and while riding in the elevator Sherry asked me: “Do you have my handbag?” I had been carrying it for her before we sat down, and now I didn’t have it! We quickly returned to the window ledge…. No handbag. “Where was the last place we stopped?” “Macy’s.” “Let’s go there.” We walked briskly. I asked her: “You had your phone in there right?” “Oh yes, and driver’s license, passport, credit cards….!” I called her phone and a man answered. “You have Sherry’s phone, do you also have her purse?” “Yes” he said. “Who is this?” I asked. “This is the Chicago Police department” was the reply. Someone found Sherry’s purse and handed it to a uniformed police officer. We met a couple minutes later and discovered all was well.
I can’t help but wonder if the person who turned in her purse was one of the homeless street people we see downtown. Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.
The final part of this story happened on another summer day. My youngest daughter Marcella was visiting us and we were at Navy Pier. Busy place on a Saturday in the summer in Chicago. When Marcie returned from the restroom she looked ashen. “I forgot my backpack in the restroom, and when I went back it was gone.” Backpack, trip memorabilia, and of course wallet with her ticket and ID she’d need the next day to fly home.
A quick end to this story. While we were filling out a form at “Lost and Found” a family approached us and returned Marcies’ backpack.
We didn’t get their names. I’ll probably never know who the person was who turned in Sherry’s purse or my wallet from the restaurant parking lot or from the slopes in Montana. I’d like to tell each of them “Thanks” and to tell them the stories of the other times, when people were just being people, being themselves, being abundant.
I’d sure like to tell them, but I reckon it doesn’t really matter.
They already know.
Until next time, Be Well and Stay Well!!