Little Story from the Big Apple

by Lindalee Brownstein
Ohio, USA

Little Story From the Big Apple

In 1995 my husband, son Daniel, and I were on Ellis Island viewing immigrant photos and hearing their stories. We saw teenagers traveling alone across the ocean, heading for their hopes as everything they’d known faded behind them. We saw parents waiting to hear if they would be admitted to the USA to build a good life; if not for themselves, at least for the child holding their hand and the baby in the blanket.

Eyes looking out from the sepia photographs sometimes appeared frightened, but, no matter, they had done what they thought needed doing.

Visiting Ellis Island was an opportunity for our 14-year-old Daniel, who’d grown up in the 1990s, to see real courage and character. Too often, we felt, he was subjected to disappointing stories of his fellow man — in the land that these people had risked all to join.

It was now time to take the ferry back, head for the New York airport, and return to Ohio. On the subway I had my camera, my carry-on bag, and my …ahhh, my PURSE was still on the ferry!

I glanced at my husband. This would not be easy.

After my confession, we decided we had no time to turn back. We’d continue to the airport and catch our flight. Phoning the ferry confirmed that the purse hadn’t been turned in: “If it turns up, we’ll let you know.”

Back in Ohio, I was told repeatedly that purses lost in New York don’t get returned. Everyone agreed that New Yorkers don’t care, the crime rate is high, and you’re more likely to have a purse *snatched* than returned.

I was resigned to getting a new driver’s license, keys, photos, etc.

That was before the UPS driver dropped off the package with my purse and all of its contents, including a substantial amount of cash, still in it. It was turned in by an anonymous ferry passenger, and shipped by an anonymous ferry service employee. Two people just doing the right thing in the Big Apple, for someone they would never meet.

My son had assumed that someone would take the money and throw away everything else. He was surprised that someone used their own money to mail it, and recalls that this incident proved to him that good, honest people exist today.

Seven years later, Daniel, now 21 and finishing college, found a wallet in a deli in our home town. After eyeing the thick wad of bills it contained — a fortune to a college student like himself — he turned it in.

Perhaps the anonymous ferry passenger and employee showed the way for Daniel to overcome temptation and do the right thing. And perhaps the owner of this wallet, or their child, will one day be faced with the same choice. Perhaps they will follow the example set by an anonymous person who did the right thing in Ohio in 2002.

Originally published as HeroicStories #371 on 3 January 2003

1 thought on “Little Story from the Big Apple”

  1. Some years ago I was going downtown for a sales meeting with a potential customer. I transferred to another bus, showed my bus pass to the driver, and moved to the back of the bus for a seat. I suddenly realized I didn’t have my wallet when I got off the bus, needless to say, I panicked and called the bus company, which was a waste of time.

    I called my answering service to see if anyone called about the wallet, but unfortunately, no one called. I decided to go on to my appointment and hoped that someone would call me even if they took the cash. It didn’t matter, I just wanted my IDs, etc. To my surprise, a gentleman called my service and left his address and phone number.

    I didn’t waste any time calling him. I called him and we decided to meet at the entrance to his office building which was only a few blocks away. When we greeted each other he handed me my wallet and assured me everything was just the way he found it.
    I offered him a reward but he refused. He even invited me to his office’s Christmas Party, but I politely declined telling him that just finding my wallet was more than enough for me. He told me that he lost his wallet before and someone turned it in. He just wanted to return the favor. I’m glad it was me.


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