The Best Reward

By Peg Shambo
Iowa, USA

The Best Reward

It was a sweltering summer day in New York City in the mid-1980’s. I had taken the train from upstate New York for a few days of job hunting and visiting with relatives and friends, my luggage and briefcase in tow. I was hot and frustrated after my long journey and dragging my bags through the train station. But I was looking forward to seeing my aunts Helen and Rita again. I knew they would have a cold drink and a good meal waiting for my arrival at their apartment.

From Grand Central station I took the subway. Thinking I was headed out to Queens, I suddenly realized I was on a train heading in the wrong direction. I grabbed my belongings and dashed across the platform to the correct train.

Just as the doors were closing, I realized I had left my briefcase on the first train! Oh no! I had come into town to talk to a recruiter interested in finding me a new job, and in my briefcase was a sheaf of resumes. Too late: the train was moving already!

I got off at the next station and sought out a subway employee, who tried to make contact with someone further down the line, but the situation seemed impossible. This was New York City, notorious at that time for its crime, rude people, and crooks who would take advantage of anyone. I was crestfallen.

When I arrived at my aunts’ home, they were quite concerned. They had received a call from a complete stranger, who claimed he had found my briefcase on the subway. They wanted to hear the rest of the story.

After I filled them in, I returned his call within minutes. It turned out that he had been in that first subway car and had seen me leave my briefcase behind. He found my home phone number inside the briefcase, called the number, and talked to my daughter. She gave him the number to my aunts’ home.

He gave me directions to the hairdresser’s shop where he worked, so we piled into Aunt Rita’s car and drove into Manhattan. We found the address easily enough. I retrieved my briefcase, contents intact, from this wonderful man, while my aunts sat double-parked outside the shop.

When I offered him a cash reward, he would hear nothing of it. I was grateful, as I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but was more than willing to part with something in order to show my appreciation for his helpfulness and honesty.

This is my belated public thank you to the kind soul who saved my day. I have since incorporated into my own life the same “random acts of kindness to others” that he showed me. I, too, decline any monetary reward for just helping others in this big, wide world. The reward is great: knowing that another person’s life has been changed for the better.

Originally published as HeroicStories #Apr 8 2002 on 294

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