Page three Random Acts

A Tale Less Ordinary

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Regular readers will recall that a couple of years ago, we noted that lost wallets always seem to get returned around here, so we banned those tales on grounds they were just too common. Here, however, is an uncommon one.

All too often, we can lose faith in our fellow humans. And just when we think everyone is out for themselves, we run into a selfless person who restores our faith.

On a Saturday not too long ago, my husband, Bruce, and I were headed out to a party. Never one to go out without identification, I grabbed my purse and realized I had not replaced the wallet I'd removed earlier that day when leaving for a walk to the local supermarket for my weekly shopping. While my husband waited, I ran around the house looking in all the likely and unlikely places, but I couldn't find the wallet.

Bruce's security background immediately kicked in: When did you last see it? What did you do after that? Do you remember seeing it once you got home? I recalled putting it in my loaded handcart after paying for the groceries and before walking out of the store. So I retraced my steps to the store, looking along the ground but not finding anything. I inquired at the grocery store information counter, but the wallet had not been turned in.

Knowing that our evening plans were now ruined, I returned home and immediately began calling creditors to cancel all of my cards and freeze my credit report. I was convinced that I was about to experience identity theft and all of the negative implications of this crime. Racing against the clock, I wanted to halt the free-fall spending someone was probably having in my name and at least minimize the damage.

While in the midst of these calls, a message came through on my BlackBerry. My employer had recently implemented a service that forwarded office telephone voice mails to our work e-mail account. It seemed strange that someone was calling me in the office on a Saturday night, so I checked the voice mail. The person had hung up, but I could see the caller's phone number and dialed that. The gentleman on the other end spoke little English, and my college Spanish was rusty, but it became apparent that this kind man had my wallet. Now, if we could only communicate enough to connect so I could retrieve it.

I went downstairs in my condo building to see if the concierge could locate a Spanish-speaking resident. Luckily, I ran into Otto and his family just returning from dinner, and Otto explained that he was fluent in Spanish and happy to help. I dialed the number again and Otto began speaking to the man, whose name we learned was Luis. Luis had found my wallet, which had apparently fallen out of my cart on the walk home earlier that day.

With Otto's help, Luis and I arranged to meet within the hour. My husband and I headed out to meet our Good Samaritan. Along the way, all we could talk about was how amazing it was to have had such an honest person find the wallet and not take advantage of the situation.

Luis and his friend Guillermo met us and returned the wallet with all documents, cards and cash intact! In person and with Guillermo's help, we found we could communicate better than we had on the phone.

Luis explained that the name on the credit cards matched the one on the business cards, which prompted his call to my office phone. We also learned that Luis was looking for work; he had just lost his cleaning position at one of the local malls. Bruce and I were again astounded by the kindness and honesty of this man.

In our day-to-day lives, the news seems to be filled with stories that show the negative characteristics of people. It can leave us skeptical of neighbors, co-workers and strangers alike. And then we encounter the Luises in life, and our faith is restored.

-- Anne D. Darconte, Bethesda


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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