Maybe she really is an angel. If not, she comes as close as anyone I've ever known.
Parwin Avar-Sulapan, of Springfield, is only 44. But she had a stroke four years ago. She had to leave a promising career as a bank executive. She hasn't earned a nickel since.
Meanwhile, Parwin has debts of $30,000, and they may grow, because she may need a pacemaker implanted in her heart. Her daughter is about to enter Northern Virginia Community College, which isn't free. Her husband, Abdullah, is scratching out a living as a salesman at an Arlington Honda dealership. But a family member must drive Parwin wherever she needs to go, because she gets confused and forgetful.
If a person in this situation found a wallet with about $200 cash in it, as well as a book of blank checks, as well as several credit cards, she might figure that her ship had just come in. But Parwin returned the wallet, contents intact, to its owner, Genevieve Davison.
It was the third time in the last three years that Parwin has found a lost wallet in a public place in the Washington area. In each case, the wallet contained a considerable amount of cash, as well as other valuables. But all three times, Parwin returned wallet and contents.
"Life is like a chain," she said. "You help one person and then they help you."
But Parwin initially refused the help that Genevieve Davison offered.
When they met, and Parwin returned the wallet that Genevieve had inadvertently dropped at a post office in Brookfield Plaza shopping center, Genevieve tried to give Parwin a $20 reward. Parwin refused it.
"She only took the money after I insisted," Genevieve said. When Parwin announced that she'd use it to buy gas for her daughter's car, not something for herself, Genevieve learned about her medical and job history. Genevieve pronounces herself "deeply touched" by Parwin's "genuine kindness and empathy."
As difficult as Parwin's circumstances may sound, she considers herself lucky to live in the United States. She and her family left their native Afghanistan in 1982. Parwin had just survived open-heart surgery in Germany. She and her husband were "starting from zero," she said.
They did well at first. Parwin worked her way up in the banking business, at First Union, then Crestar. Her husband ran a produce store. When their daughter was born, Parwin ran a day-care center from the family home.
But in 1995, she suffered a stroke because she hadn't been taking the proper dosage of blood-thinning medication. The stroke left her speechless, and almost memory-less. Even after therapy, Parwin struggles with English, in which she used to be fluent.
Genevieve Davison has good reason to think that Parwin is her angel. But perhaps it's the other way around.
Genevieve and her husband, Jaque, say they want to do whatever they can to help the family. They slipped the lost-wallet story to me in an effort to start that ball rolling.
I'll do my best to roll it further. Anyone who'd like to help ease the strain on this family should write to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071, send a fax (202-334-5150) or an e-mail message (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'll play middleman.
In the meantime, Jaque Davison had a bottom-line thought that bears repeating. He's a retired career Army officer. He believes that Parwin's kindness will come back to her, doubled and redoubled, in a way that military people understand.
"If you take care of your soldiers," said Jaque, "they will take care of you."
I hoisted Bill Clayton's letter about 7:15 on a Monday morning, and started reading.
Then I started giggling.
Bill has an amusing concern -- and an amusing way of expressing it.
"My problem: I pulled a T-shirt out of my dresser drawer the other day -- and there was nothing on it!," Bill says.
"No `I'm With Stupid.' No `Went to Palm Beach and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt.' No `Nixon Now.' No nothin'."
Bill says he "nearly fell down with despair. Was I short of nutrition concerns (This Bud's For You)? Did I lack a sense of political humor (Perot -- For the Heck of It)? Was I shy of travel memories (Galapagos -- Another World)? Did I not want a meaningful resume (Reagan-Gorbachev Summit -- 1987)?
"I would appreciate any words you can offer of solace to ease my self-doubt."
Here they come, Bill, suitable for ironing onto the front of a T-shirt:
I have three drawers full of "message" T-shirts. Many of the messages are pretty clever, if I do say so myself. My favorite is a shirt my wife gave me a zillion years ago. The front says: "Anyone Can Be a Daily Columnist." The back says: "For Three Weeks."
But those ringing thoughts are fading. Relentless doses of Cheer and Tide have dulled the letters, and thus the impact. Whenever I wear that "message" T-shirt, or any other, I'm trumpeting the fact that the shirt is ancient -- and that I am, too.
So I have lately chosen to go the message-less route. No more "Coors -- Breakfast of Champions." No more "Sexy Senior Citizen." No more "Soccer Mom."
We can't fight the tides of Tide, Bill. But we can plaster a little nonconformist courage on our chests.