Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 90

Dear Mr. President,

Caught up, as you must necessarily be, in the larger-than-life business of being President of the United States, you probably don't get to experience the strange and wonderful smallness of being an anonymous American. I've had a day that makes it difficult not to marvel at the goodness of humanity.

It started while I was grocery shopping today. As I walked by a bus stop outside of the store, a man came at me in an unsettling sort of way. It was nothing I could put my finger on; my instincts were telling me that something was wrong, that there was something hostile about his stare and his approach, but I easily would have forgotten it entirely if not for what happened next. After doing my shopping, I discovered my wallet was missing. I checked my pockets, the bag I'd already been carrying, the shopping basket full of groceries, it was nowhere. The clerks at Trader Joe's searched high and low, but found it nowhere in the store. I left my contact information and went out to retrace my steps, knowing I'd had it only a block outside the store. My wallet had my student ID, driver's license, credit and debit cards, bus pass, and $65 cash. As I frantically searched the sidewalk outside, a man who'd been listening to his headphones at the bus stop seemed to recognize me. He waved me over and told me that he'd seen the man staring at me take my wallet after it fell out of my pocket. He told me I should cancel my cards right away, and pressed $20 on me, refusing my attempts to return it, or even to take his name and number to be able to pay it back.

I returned home, canceled my cards, and bemoaned the loss of money I could barely afford, the groceries I'd been planning to buy, and my various ID cards. I felt stupid and irresponsible, angry at myself, but still moved by the kindness of this stranger at the bus stop. Less than an hour later, I got a call from a woman who'd found my wallet on the street by her apartment. She lived several blocks away from the grocery store, nowhere near where I'd been, and told me that, while my cards & IDs were all safe, there was no cash. I thanked her for going to the trouble of tracking me down, and set out toward her apartment to retrieve my wallet. We met only briefly, she came down to hand off my wallet and we exchanged first names. As I hurried off to the store, I looked inside the wallet, only to find $40 and note saying "For groceries. Enjoy!"

And so, on a day when everything seemed to be going wrong, strangers took care of me. These people may never know that their kindness meant so much to me, their unexpected generosity reminding me never to lose faith in humanity's fundamental goodness. It is easy to forget how well we tend to one another; not even the clerks at the store, when I finally made it in to pay for my groceries, would believe this story until I showed them the note, and then none of us could stop grinning. I hope that, even if your position in life precludes you from being the beneficiary of this kind of anonymous care, you're still able to take pride in the knowledge that strangers like the ones I met today are all around, giving what they can, even (or, perhaps, especially) in these difficult times, to guard against the cynicism and isolation we all fall prey to.

Respectfully yours,


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