by Lois Dansler
My friend, Barb, and I had been out yard saleing as we often do, and were headed home on a hot, humid day in August, 2010. We were driving through a part of town where one sees drug users and dealers on the street.
As we slowed for a traffic light my friend noticed a wallet lying open on the street near a parked car. She asked me to stop and as I did she jumped out and retrieved it. I expected her to hop back in so we could give it to the police, but she waved for me to park.
Rolling down the window, I asked what she was doing, and she said, “There’s ID in here — maybe the owner is in one of these houses. But the address isn’t on this street. Hmmm.” Recognizing her determination, I feared Barb would start knocking on doors…. Doors sheltering people who were scared of strangers, drug dealers, and users — many of them armed to balance their fears.
I parallel parked. Barb had already knocked on a couple doors asking for the name on the ID, without disclosing what she wanted. The first door didn’t open, the folks inside told her to go away. At the second door, no one answered.
I caught up with her at the third door as it was opened slowly after a peek out through closed blinds. A young woman in faded but clean clothes opened it after seeing Barb’s smile.
Barb asked by name for the wallet’s owner. A look of trepidation passed over the girl’s face as she backed up a step. She called out. A young man in his early twenties with a puzzled look came towards us. Barb recognized the young man from the driver’s license picture.
She held out the wallet without a word, just a smile, and he took it, not quite understanding what was happening. The young girl said thank you and quickly closed the door.
Halfway back to the car I was still scolding my friend for taking such chances.
Then we heard yelling over the street noise. The young man was running toward us and waving. He was smiling, yet tears were running down his face. Before we knew it, he was hugging us both and saying thank you over and over.
When he calmed a bit, he explained. He’d just been back to work for three weeks and his first paycheck was in his wallet. That paycheck was enough to move his wife and their 3-month-old baby to a small clean apartment, close to his job and out of the threatening area where they now lived.
With a last big hug, and the last tears from all of us, the young man headed back to the house. We headed back to our car with smiles that lasted longer than most, and kept returning to our faces.
My friend taught me that day that your fears are worth overcoming, for the benefit of others.