In Chicago, Illinois 20 years ago, I was playing in a golf tournament and went out to dinner with friends. While at dinner, my wallet fell out of my jacket and was never found or returned to me. I was stuck far from home with no money, ID or credit cards. I did not yet have a cell phone or a GPS system to guide me home so I borrowed $200 in cash from a friend, had directions printed out and headed back home to New York by myself.
I didn’t realize how much having my wallet stolen would affect me until later in life. My anxiety manifests in having to know where my wallet is at all times. I check to make sure I have my wallet when I get on a plane, when I get in an Uber, when I go to the store and then right before I go to bed. I will double check that the wallet is in my zipped-up bag on a plane after I go to the restroom just to make sure no one took it. I never really understood where my “Where is my wallet?” anxiety came from until I recently recalled the Chicago story.
Fast forward to 2022 and I am running errands. As I got out of my car to enter the pet store I immediately saw a wallet in the middle of the road. I waited for the cars to pass, ran into the road, grabbed the wallet and got back to the curb. The wallet had credit cards and a couple of ID’s so I started to Google the name on the ID to try to find the owner. I then saw a card in the wallet that had a phone number on it so I called it. Sure enough it was Daniel, the owner of the wallet. Within minutes, I saw him running down the road so excited to see his wallet in my hand.
Turns out, just two hours earlier, Daniel had parked his car exactly where I had and ran across the street to go pick up the tuxedo for his wedding that was just days away. Problem was, when he got into the shop, his wallet was gone and he was left with no way to pay for the suit. He had retraced his steps to try to find it and after a heated argument with the manager of the grocery store where he was sure that someone had swiped his wallet, he went home defeated.
When I saw that wallet on the ground, I immediately remembered the feeling I had when I lost my wallet 20 years prior. I thought of how my life would have changed had someone picked it up and returned it to me. I wondered how my anxiety would have shifted or manifested itself differently had I never had that experience. I was glad that by taking five minutes to locate and wait for Daniel to come retrieve his wallet, I possibly took away stress from him as he entered his wedding weekend.
I’m sure I will never see Daniel again. If he walked up to me right now, I would have no idea that it was him; but I will always remember the feeling of being proud of myself as I drove away, watching Daniel walk into the shop to pick up his tux for the big day.
I was fortunate in this instance to immediately see, and feel, the benefits of this random act of kindness and I acknowledge this isn’t always the case. Let this story serve as a reminder that acts of kindness can feel great and sometimes an opportunity to do an act of kindness is dropped onto the ground in front of you; sometimes the opportunity is a bit more vague. No matter how these chances present themselves, seize them, embrace them and remember, whether you see the impact or not, it matters. As we all continue to navigate the complexities of individual life, family life, societal life, health, wellness, politics and more, the little things still matter. If given the opportunity, would you take the time to do an act of kindness?