by Seth Gwinn
In August of 2003, my family was traveling to Nebraska from Branson, Missouri. After a short vacation, my wife, Jan, our two daughters, ages 9 and 8, and I were on our way back home.
We stopped in Springfield, Missouri, to visit family. My wife suggested that we visit a Laundromat rather than bother our kinfolk to do our laundry in their homes, as they were ill, away or otherwise busy. After our clothes were done, we left to go several miles out of town to spend the night with a cousin.
That evening, after extensive searching, my wife discovered her purse missing. A call to the Laundromat produced no results — the attendant searched the facility but found nothing. Ditto several other calls to stores we had visited that day.
Thoroughly disheartened, Jan bemoaned the loss of our vacation traveler’s checks, some cash, her necessary medication, as well as the usual: driver’s license, credit cards, work ID, etc.
The next morning we returned to Springfield to go through dumpsters and wastebaskets near the Laundromat and to report the loss to the police. On an off chance, Jan returned to the Laundromat to inquire about her purse again. The clerk called her boss, a woman named Judy, who had seen my wife’s purse near one of the dryers and had taken it home for safekeeping.
Judy offered to bring it to us right away. We suggested that we go to her house to pick it up, but she wouldn’t hear of it. About 15 minutes later she arrived at the Laundromat with Jan’s purse and a quite impatient 4-year-old granddaughter in tow. The little girl couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about and was eager to return to Grandma’s house.
Everything in the purse was intact, although Judy had made some calls on our cell phone. She had called our house sitter in Omaha Nebraska, to see if she knew our travel plans and could tell her how we might be contacted. She had called American Express to ask how to return our travelers checks in the event we couldn’t be found, and our home and work numbers, still trying to find us.
The two women exchanged church and family stories for a while, until the granddaughter couldn’t contain herself any longer, and we parted company. Not only did this wonderful woman go out of her way to return my wife’s purse, but she would only accept payment in the form of a big hug — which my wife gratefully delivered with heartfelt appreciation.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, in all walks of life. We often silently thank ours.