Sunday, June 14, 2015

Many happy returns to lost items



Judging from reader reports, people have a knack for misplacing wallets and purses --and how they respond when finding such items left behind by others says a lot about their character.

B.C., a reader from New England, wrote that he regularly spends time with old high school friends when they're home for a holiday. At one get-together, a friend told the group about the time he and his wife found a wallet on the beach. They removed the cash and tossed the wallet, with the owner's license and credit cards, in a dumpster.

Two people in the group "went nuts" over the story, telling the friend how wrong he was to care so little about the wallet's owner, and hammering him for the cavalier way he told the story.

"The friend was shamed to the point that he got up, left the bar, and we haven't spoken to him since," B.C. noted.

Janet experienced a far different scenario. When she and family were visiting Gettysburg, Penn., several years ago, her 13-year-old daughter spotted a small purse lying beside a tree. There was $20 to $40 in the purse and no identification. The visitor's center was closed, so they couldn't leave the purse in the lost and found.

The daughter insisted that they wait for more than an hour to see if the owner returned. When she didn't, the daughter placed the purse in the tree, hoping it would be obvious to the owner if she returned.

Another reader, S.K., recalled being at an Olive Garden restaurant in Ohio when she saw a woman leave the restroom just as S.K. was entering. S.K. noticed that the woman had left a purse behind. The ID information inside the purse matched the woman who'd left the restroom, but otherwise the purse contained only a wadded-up tissue, two gum wrappers and an empty coin purse.

"I took $20 out of my wallet and put it in the clutch," S.K. wrote. She then returned the purse to the woman, who was sitting in the restaurant with three young children. "She opened the clutch, looked up at me and got tears in her eyes," S.K. wrote.

At a gas station in Santa Rosa, Calif., reader A.L. and her husband noticed a wallet on the floor of a phone booth. (Apparently, some gas stations in Santa Rosa still have phone booths!) The wallet contained what appeared to be a month's worth of paycheck cash. The owner was nowhere in sight, so A.L. checked the info in the wallet and called the owner.

"The man who came to our door was a salmon fisherman," writes A.L. "He wanted to give us some reward money. But, inspired by the movie 'Pay It Forward,' we told him to just pay it forward to someone else who might need some help."

There's no one right way to return what isn't yours, but failing to at least try is wrong. The right thing is to do what you can to set things right -- with the hope that your action leads others to do the same. 


Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to rightthing@comcast.net. 

(c) 2014 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.


2 comments:

Azalea Annie said...

The Golden Rule works when spotting something someone else lost: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the rule favored by those who are ethical, who value morality, and who recognize right from wrong.

Finders keepers, losers weepers is the rule favored by those who are not ethical, who do not value morality, and who do not recognize the differences between right and wrong....except when others are dealing with them. Those who favor this rule would expect someone who finds something they lost to return it, to do the right thing. They are hypocrites, who want others to do right by them. They are egotists who believe they deserve to be treated well, while they can see no reason to treat others well.

We most often learn these values, these rules, as children. But even if we are not taught these values when we are young, we can learn them as adults. Life is a journey and offers opportunities for learning every day.

Anonymous said...

A wallet with an ID should be placed in a P/O drop box. Not the trash. It might get there then and even if no cash, the cards etc. have value.
If no ID, it is up to the resources of the finder. Which may be impossible.

Alan Owseichik\
Greenfield Ma.

Can reader turn lost vacation into charitable deduction?

The reports of the effects of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico were devastating. Electricity lost. Homes destroyed and streets flo...