Losing a wallet is a full-time job until everything is canceled and replaced. So when Carole said she had lost her wallet in downtown Vancouver, B.C., we all gasped.
Carole and husband Wayne were on a weekend getaway from their home in Kelowna. They were on their way to a family dinner when Carole realized she no longer had her wallet. Her reaction was normal: panic. A lot can happen with a lost wallet full of cards, and none of it is pretty.
What she couldn’t know until she had spent an hour and a half repeating the worst-case scenarios was that Vancouver was home to a couple of very determined Good Samaritans.
Carole and Wayne had been parked on Vancouver’s West Broadway when her wallet slipped unnoticed off her lap and into the gutter. When they drove away, the wallet stayed behind.
The mid-afternoon timing was fortuitous. At 3 p.m. any vehicles still parked on that street are towed so the street can be cleared for rush-hour traffic. A tow truck was just backing up to a parked car when a passerby, Jim, noticed someone asleep in it.
Jim tapped on the window. The man drove away. So did the tow truck. What stayed behind was Carole’s purse, lying in the gutter.
He picked it up and took it into the nearest store, Broadway Camera. Jim is a familiar customer there. So he asked Henry, a staff member, to help him look through the wallet for identification.
Jim had lost his own wallet a while back. He knew just what this one’s owner was going through. He was determined to let her know the contents were safe.
Tracking Carole down took some detective work. Jim and Henry first came across her senior centre membership card. They Googled the centre, called the number, and got an answering machine. They tracked down her home number. Answering machine.
Leaving a message was not good enough. Jim knew Carole would be frantic. He searched through all the cards and found a friend’s business card. Jim called the number.
Al was in. His wife, Chris, knew Carole and Wayne were on their way to her brother’s. Two calls later, Chris had tracked down her brother’s phone number.
By this time it was getting closer to the hour Carole and Wayne were supposed to show up at her brother’s. Carole was trying to figure out how not to spoil the family gathering with her bad news.
She took a deep breath as they walked up to her brother’s door. But when her brother opened the door, he said, “Chris is on the phone.”
Chris had both Jim’s and Henry’s home phone numbers. She knew where the purse was, at Broadway Camera. Carole called both men. Next day she picked up her wallet, with everything intact.
What started as a nightmare became a story, one Carole, and all her friends, will tell over and over.
We’ll tell it endlessly because Jim’s and Henry’s act of kindness enlarges us all. We want to trust strangers. We want to believe we live in a friendly world. We want the security of knowing when we make a mistake, any kind of mistake, we’ll somehow land softly instead of crashing and burning.
Bad news is part of our daily fare, part of the flickering images and newsprint pages of our lives. And we have our own share of bad news right at home, with accidents, losses, betrayals, diseases, and life’s usual reversals.
But if we stack up the minutes one by one, count the hours, the the days, the years, and then subtract the bad news, what most of us are left with is a life heavily weighted on the side of the Jim’s and Henry’s of the world.
They remind us of the grace of our lives.
Thanks, Jim. Thanks, Henry.
N.B. When I sent the draft to Carole, she sent back more details. I edited the draft, including the corrections, but there’s a coda to the story. Carole writes:
“Admirable men! I picked up the wallet the next day from the store owner Milan. Another fine fellow. Please, all who read this frequent this establishment if you have camera needs or just want to met good fellow humans. We had a great family dinner that evening thanks to these good folks.
“To add to this we did go back to Army and Navy store on West Hastings which we had been to earlier to see if the wallet had been turned in there and received great sympathy and as much help as they could do, taking my address and phone number, etc.
“From the time I dropped the wallet to the time I was notified the wallet had been found was about 1 and a half hours! All in all our four days in Vancouver were a very memorable experience. The people we met and chatted with made me realize that if you are friendly and ask one question Vancouverites will make you feel right at home.”
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