Early Saturday afternoon, Arden and I were leaving the house to run a few errands. As we went out to the car I decided to check the mail in the box by the street. Walking that way with me, Arden noticed something lying in the street by the end of the driveway. It was tan color and flat, like a small notebook or tablet, covered with fabric. Basically it looked like an old style writing tablet inside a notebook. There was a large black tire mark on it where someone had run over it.
As she picked it up and turned it over she noticed it was actually an electronic device – an electronic reader. I don’t recall the brand name but it wasn’t something I’ve heard of before. (Of course, I don’t know much about those things anyway.)
Arden remarked “Someone’s not going to be happy they lost this.” She studied it a few seconds more and said “Gee – I guess if it didn’t have a name and address on it we could keep it… but it does. And it’s in our neighborhood.”
She was correct. The address was only a few blocks away. There was no question what we needed to do. Both of us try to be as honest as we can, and keeping it, if we knew who actually owned it, wasn’t even a possibility.
As we got into the car I turned it on to see if it even worked. Not that it mattered; we would return it anyway, but I was curious whether being run over had damage it. It worked fine.
As it turned out the address was two blocks up, two blocks over, then one block up. There were no vehicles in the driveway and the doors and windows were closed so I couldn’t tell if anyone was home. I wondered what I would do with it if no one answered and decided putting it inside the storm door would suffice. Wouldn’t the owner be surprised to come home and find it there!
I rang the bell and waited. Just when I thought no one would answer I heard movement in the house and saw someone approaching the door. When the door opened it was a tall, older gentleman, in his late 70s, with a look on his face that could only be described as cautious curiosity. I could tell he was wondering what I wanted – then he saw the reader in my hand. His expression changed to a surprised smile.
“Is this yours?” I asked as he opened the storm door.
“Yes, it is. Where did you find it?” he replied.
“It was at the end of our driveway, two blocks over. Someone ran over it but it still works and it doesn’t look damaged,” I said.
“I’ve looked everywhere for it,” the man said. “I looked in my car three times. I can’t imagine how it got in the street. I took it with me when I went out a little while ago and then couldn’t find it! You say you found it on your street?”
I handed the reader to him. “We did. Maybe you laid it on the roof of the car and forgot about it? That has happened to me before.”
The man put his palm to his forehead and said “I bet you’re right. I don’t remember doing it but I go down your street because the intersection at the end of mine is so busy and it’s difficult to see. I heard a noise on my car but didn’t associate it with the reader. Thank you so much. It’s easily replaced but I have some good stuff in here that I’d hate to lose.”
“You’re very welcome,” I said. “No need to replace it if you can get it back.”
“Please, let me give you something for returning it,” he said, reaching for his wallet.
Ah… the moment of truth. The big payoff for returning his lost electronic reader….
“Please, no. Thank you. I can’t accept anything for it. I would want someone to do the same for me sometime,” I said.
The man made a noise that was part laughter and part grunt. I looked at him and knew exactly what he meant. The sound and the look meant “Fat chance of that happening in this day and age.”
The old man shook my hand with a huge smile and said “Thank you so much. I truly appreciate you bringing it back to me. I’m so glad I put my address on it!”
“That was a good idea. We knew you were close by and that helped. I’m glad we could bring it back to you.”
The man walked with me toward the car and said hello to Arden, who was sitting in the passenger seat.
“Thank you very much,” he said to her.
“You’re very welcome,” Arden replied. “I’m glad it had your address on it.”
We all introduced ourselves (finally), said our goodbyes and Arden and I went on about our business. We had done our “good deed for the day” and both of us felt good about it.
I don’t write this for pats on the back or praise from anyone but rather, to acknowledge the fact that doing the right thing can make one feel better than getting something for free. We could have kept the reader and used it ourselves. The old man would never have known what happened and would have bought another one. But neither of us even considered it once we knew where it belonged.
Arden and I were both raised by parents who taught us to do the right thing, even if you could benefit from not doing the right thing. Being honest and trustworthy are qualities instilled in us by parents who had those same qualities.
And even though the gentleman was a bit skeptical, I would like to believe there are more people out there like us who would have, given the same situation, done exactly as we did. The smile on that man’s face and his handshake were more than enough reward for the return of his reader. On Saturday we made that man’s day. What could be better than that?