You Are Not Alone

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lost and Joyfully Found

In the Floridian January gloom, I steered a Walmart cart, (or buggy as they call them in the South) toward the cart corral. The shoddy cart wheels picked up on every cranny in the pavement, making the cart vibrate slightly under my hands.

I found myself grateful for the light, long sleeved sweater I chose to wear that day, it only just kept the chill from creeping past my skin to my flesh. Thinking of my waiting Husband, Son and perishable grocery items, I walked fast toward the cart corral, noticing something odd in one of the carts that stood off to the side. The Walmart employee who had been tasked with taking the carts back to the store had journeyed off, leaving some behind for his return trip. As I neared the cart with the odd object, I noticed it was a purse and, my heart sank.

As I approached with my own cart, I noticed that the purse was a large, soft black leather. I wondered why the Walmart employee or, the person who loaded his groceries and got into his car didn’t notice this purse in the cart. That purse was like a red flag of alarm to me.

I had my own purse stolen, in what seemed seconds, while I was in the very same Walmart, about six years ago. I frantically looked all over the store for my purse, stopping at customer service, finding no help whatsoever. I was heartbroken, betrayed, sick to my stomach. I was outraged, indignant, violated that someone had stolen from me so swiftly and easily.

As I stared at this purse in a lonesome cart, abandoned and forlorn, my heart ached and I thought of it’s owner, sick in the stomach with dread and fear. I imagined the purse’s owner wildly hoping that all was not lost, days of incontinence ahead of them for cancelling cards and grieving over such a betrayal of humanity.

I spied a price tag, seemingly from the purse and wondered if it could have been a purse that was purchased on the missing consumer. I picked up the purse, found it hefty but, not being fooled, (because most stores pack purses with paper) I quickly peered inside and with a blink of my eyes, saw the unmistakable signs of a purse that was being used.

Knowing I could do nothing else, I picked up the purse, careful to leave it away from my body, only gripping it by my hand, and glanced at my car, where my very hungry Husband and Son were waiting. I brusquely walked over to the car, tapped on the driver’s side window, my Husband rolled down the window and I explained that I had found a purse in a cart and I was going to return it.

In a Floridian January gloom, in a world where gloom seems to have a home in everyone’s heart, where dogs eat dogs and the line that you never used to cross seems dimmer and thinner, I marched back to Walmart, leaving my hungry Husband and Son behind, groceries that needed to be in the fridge, dinner waiting to be made and beelined for Customer Service.

As I approached the double automatic doors, I scanned every Walmart employee, looking for an employee with the right air of authority and title to hand the purse over to. I was hoping not to have to go all the way to the Customer service counter and, my hopes were rewarded when I rounded the corner past the Greeter and spied a Customer Service Manager. He was below average height, with long black hair pulled into a low pony tail but, as my eyes scanned his body, I found the holy grail, his name tag. In a slice of bright yellow, my eyes read, “Customer Service Manager”. I hardly noticed the woman he was talking to but, she noticed me.

“THAT’S MY PURSE!” the woman standing next to the CSM cried as her anguished eyes fell on the black purse I was clutching my right hand.

My eyes went from the shocked and surprised look of the CSM to the lady and, in milliseconds the center of my chest was bombarded with such intense relief and joy, tears pooled in my eyes.

With my heart in my throat, my voice thick with emotion said, “OH! I AM SO GLAD! Seamlessly, she grabbed for her purse as I handed it over and, in our joy and relief, we hugged.

As we parted, I noticed she was a short lady, possibly shorter than myself, (she was wearing heeled boots and I am five foot two and a half inches and yes, that half inch matters) and she had many more years of maturity and life than I have earned. She had blue eyes, a bit faded but still brilliant. Her hair was cropped short and white and curling in that soft way that makes you want to reach out and graze your hand over the top, just to get a taste of how impossibly soft and heavenly that kind of hair feels because, for me, it reminds me of my Grandma. She was dressed pretty stylishly, in black pants, a patterned top and a black jacket. What burst from within her was a light so bright, it framed her so I could remember her just as I have told you. Her goodness and gratitude ebbed from within her and, so much was our joy that we hugged. I don’t hug people. I don’t. I feel weird about touching people who I don’t know well but, I hugged this lady, so much was our relief and exuberance.

The CSM, wordless over such a emotional display became tight lipped and awkward, hunching his shoulders with a shrug of a smile and wandered off, leaving me and the lady who lost her purse alone, emoting our joy at having this moment.

The Lady and I walked off, talking excitedly over the good that had just happened, her explaining how anxious she was, admitting that she had quite a bit of money in her purse and that, she had only realized that she left her purse after she had gone home, started to unload her groceries and was not able to find her purse. I told her that I understood and that I was so glad that her purse was returned.

At the automatic double doors, she turned to me with her shinning blue eyes, full of emotion and asked me if she could reimburse me for my good deed. I have to admit that her question had been part of my imagination as I marched her purse back toward Walmart but, I knew that there was no way I could ask or, accept anything in return for returning her purse. I declined her generous offer, sincerely telling her that returning her purse and her joy and relief and gratitude was thanks enough.

We hugged again, because I felt the desire to do so and, she asked me to meet her Husband which, I felt strangely about but, I went along with. Thankfully, she didn’t park too far away and, we were at her car within seconds, her husband peering at her and me with a look of question on his face. She opened the door to her neat little white coupe and told her husband that I returned her purse. He thanked me with a smile.

She confided in me again that she had all her credit cards and $300 dollars cash in her purse. Somberly, I told her to go through her purse and make sure that she had everything there. It did cross my mind that maybe something’s were missing and, she had asked my name. It did cast worry over such a joyous occasion but, I trusted that all would be well.

I wished the lady and her Husband a Happy New Year and jogged toward our car where my Husband and Son were waiting.

This was not the first time I had done a similar deed but, it was the first time I interacted with a person who I was doing the good deed for. In past occasions, I had always hoped that the individual who lost their purse or wallet would find it again, unchanged and be relieved. I had my own purse stolen once and wished that I had a kind stranger who returned my purse to me but, it never happened. I was truly blessed by being able to hand this kind, gentle lady not only her worldly possessions but, and I can only hope, a bit of positively and goodwill.

Maybe, just maybe I helped beat back an inch or two of negativity and gloom in this world that seems to have so much that is sad and hopeless. If I have given that couple a bit of faith and hope in the world that, not all is lost and that the current generation is not one to wash one’s hands of, then I have done a great good in the world and, THAT is thanks enough. =)

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