Do The Right Thing

Spontaneous Acts of Kindness

Those of you familiar with my articles know that I’m usually inspired by a personal experience which compels me to grab my lap-top and put it down while it’s fresh on my mind. Admittedly, I get great joy in sharing these experiences in the hope that I can help motivate, teach and inspire others.

This article is no different. On a recent visit to New York City, I found a woman’s designer wallet on the ground while picking up my car. When I opened it I found it filled with cash, a driver license and several gold and platinum credit cards. For a brief moment, I questioned what exactly to do. Should I give it to the attendant in the garage? Should I call the police? Then I had the thought that perhaps I should take it with me and try to find the rightful owner. That is the option I chose. Taking charge of the situation, I knew that I would find a way to return it to its rightful owner in tact.

Unable to locate a phone number in the wallet, I decided to call one of the “800” numbers on the back of one of the cards and notify the customer service representative that I had found the owner’s wallet in New York and would like to get it back to them. I gave them my name and my cell phone number. I was on my way back to Connecticut and about twenty minutes passed when I heard my phone ring. Yes, it was the owner of the wallet.

When I answered she said, “Hello, MARK, oh my God! Where did you find my wallet? Are you still in the city? Can you bring it to me? Since I was already out of the city on my way home, I declined that option. Finally, at the end of the conversation, she thanked me for getting in touch with her.

The next day I went to the post office and “over-nighted” (at my expense) the wallet to her home. Imagining how it would feel to lose one’s wallet, in addition to my calling card, I included a personal note saying, “I’m sorry you lost your wallet, but hope you find comfort in the fact that in a city as large as New York, there are people who care to and will do the right thing. I know I’m not alone. Perhaps someday you will do the same for someone else. Best regards, Mar Jennings”.

Weeks passed. Weeks, people, before I received some acknowledgment that she had even received the package. I’m a big boy and am not unaware that many a good deed does indeed, go unnoticed. I have to admit, however, that I was shocked and momentarily dismayed at this person’s lack of well, manners and civility.

That said, in regard to situations like this, my personal philosophy is that when I do a good deed, I am making a deposit in the karma bank. I don’t know where or when, but one day (like Blanche in Streetcar) I will receive a kindness from a stranger. The bigger question for me is this, “Are we so busy that we cannot take a moment to write a simple thank you card or call with an expression of gratitude? If someone found my wallet and was willing to return it to me, I would be overwhelmingly grateful and prolific in thanking them for their time and trouble. I would offer to buy them dinner or some small token of appreciation. At the very least but more importantly, I would reimburse them for whatever expense they incurred in returning my property to me. For me, just the fact that I didn’t have to replace my driver’s license would be worth it alone. Add cash and credit cards to the mix and you’re looking at a person that has saved you a great deal of stress, time and money.

So, will this experience stop me from helping in the future? Nah. I will continue to practice what I learned in kindergarten. And that is the Golden Rule. And besides, life is fodder for my next article.

What you should know:
With more and more people having unlisted home phone numbers, it may be impossible to find the owner of something they lost. Consider keeping a laminated (so you don’t give it away) business card in your wallet or purse. It should read, “if found, please call” and include your cell phone number.

Never carry all your credit cards with you at once.

Keep photocopies of your driver license, credit cards (both sides) at home.

Never have your social security card or number in your wallet. You’re looking for trouble if you do. Memorize it!!!

Your wallet or purse is not your desk. There is no need to carry everything you own with you all the time. You’re not making a deal with Monty Hall! (Is he still alive?)

Most people will turn in what they find to someone else rather than taking on the responsibility of trying to return it to its rightful owner. If someone does take on the responsibility and returns your property to you, be prepared to do something worthy of the act.

Cell phones, lap-tops, and other accessories are often lost and never recovered. Why? There is no way to identify who it belongs to. Consider making personal labels to make it easy for someone will return it. How about something like “If found, return for reward”? You have nothing to lose and your personal items to gain back should you have the misfortune to lose something.

What you should do if you find something:
If you are at a restaurant, find the manager and advise them that you found something and see if he can determine who it belongs to. Most items are recovered by waiters, bar tenders, and managers and do get back to the owners. Let’s keep this system working.

If you find something in a public place, consider the location and see if you can find the proper owner. Most people retrace their steps and if you have the time, wait a few moments and see if they return.
If you find something that belongs to someone else, look for a business card with a phone number. No number but perhaps an address? Try calling information. All credit cards have a Customer Service number on the back that is toll-free. Identify yourself to the representative and state that you found an item (a wallet, a purse, a briefcase, etc.) that belongs to the person whose name is on the card and ask them if they could contact the owner and give them your name and number so that you can coordinate the return.

What you can do if someone returns your lost item to you:
Thank them over and over again until they are sick and tired of hearing it.

Ask when and where they found the item.

Ask for their name and phone number.

Pay all expenses! If there was money found in your wallet, advise them to take what they need so it can be returned to you. If a cab or a bus ride is needed to assure it will get to you–have them take it from your wallet or if no cash is available to offer to reimburse them for all their expenses.

Be sure to remind them to include their business and/or home address so that in addition to paying any expenses, you can send them a note and/or gift of appreciation. A gift card is a perfect way to say thank you. Always include a hand written note. The amount of the gift should correlate to the value of what was found. Often an item has more sentimental than the relative value to the owner. I will leave it up to you as to the amount of the reward, but my opinion is that it should never be less than $25.00.

Doing the right thing is always the way to go. Ignoring spontaneous acts of kindness is rude and just plain bad behavior in my book. My experience left me feeling a bit sad and pondering the state of society even though three weeks later I received a plant and a typed card from the company. I ask you the reader, “Was I expecting too much? Do my expectations need adjusting”? A simple phone call the day she received her wallet back would have sufficed and made my day!

My message is this. Doing the right thing is not about getting a reward or seeking acknowledgment. It’s the personal satisfaction that is the reward. But how we say “thank you” and respond to the many acts of kindness we receive every day from family members and particularly strangers that make life a little more civilized and gives us hope.

I was rewarded for two things when I was a child. Well, probably more than that two but these stick out in my mind at the moment; good grades and kindness towards others”. Think about it. What is more important than treating people the way you would like to be treated? Absolutely nothing!

And there you have it.