Editor’s note: I lost my keys last week. I went back to all the places I could remember having frequented before I’d noticed they were gone. And then I gave up and had a new pair made. This week, I got an email from my local library. Apparently, someone had found the keys on a street in an adjacent neighborhood, and turned them in because my library card was attached to the chain. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. But mostly, I was reminded—once again—of the kindness of strangers. Here’s a post I wrote about this very thing eleven years ago…If you’ve ever been touched by the deed of a good Samaritan, tell us about it in the comments section…
I was struck by an article in The Guardian last week about lost wallets.
The article reported on a recent study in which a company dropped 20 wallets containing £10 in cash, a photograph, tickets, receipts, stamps and several business cards around five British cities. Only two in ten of the wallets were returned to their owners. And of those, only around half (55%) contained the original sum of money.
The study caught my eye because I was recently one of those lucky 20%. I didn’t exactly lose my wallet, but I did lose an envelope containing 15 pounds (roughly twenty-three dollars). And here’s the kicker: the envelope didn’t have my name and address on it.
All it had was a hand-scribbled note that I’d written to a woman—we’ll call her Kelly—from whom I was buying a used (British) Dustbuster before she moved back to America the next day. The note read something along the lines of “To Kelly from Delia. Thanks and Good luck!,” with the cash stuffed inside.
While walking to her house to pick up the Dustbuster, I’d apparently dropped the envelope along a busy London street. When I got to her house and couldn’t find the envelope, I went to a bank machine to get some cash to pay her for the Dustbuster. I assumed the money was gone for good.
But the next day, a stranger contacted me (and Kelly) by email to say that she’d found the envelope. Because she knew that Kelly was moving (and vaguely knew that Kelly knew someone called Delia), she figured that it was us. Can you believe it? I mean, what are the chances that this woman would:
a. See the envelope on that heavily trafficked street;
b. Bother to read my chicken-scratch and
c. Return it on a hunch?
Bear in mind that I’d never met her and barely knew Kelly. I love this story because it illustrates the humanity in all of us. (OK, in two-fifths of us.) If you’re into this sort of thing, you must listen to the This American Life episode entitled The Kindness of Strangers. Or, if you live in the UK, have a listen the weekly Thank You segment on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live.
It’s also a great small-world story. Sometimes I really do believe the whole Six Degrees of Separation thing. (Even if I’m not connected to Kevin Bacon. Sniff.) A friend of mine just posted on Facebook that her son, who’s about to go off to college, will be living right down the hall from his best friend from Kindergarten, whom he hasn’t seen in 13 years. Again, what are the odds?
OK, so now it’s your turn to dish. What’s your best kindness of strangers and/or small world story?
Let er’ rip…