The News Is Good, For A Change!

Just listening to the news these days is sometimes enough to make me want to crawl back to bed and pull the sheets over my head. At the moment there’s the nightmare of the oil spill, the  seven-year-old who went missing from the Science Fair at his elementary school, the dozens of people washed away in a flash flood while they slept unawares in their tents.

The media doesn’t spare us from all the grim realities of life in 2010, that’s for sure. But it’s not true that only bad things happen. I’m sure you know that, but we don’t get to hear enough about the wonderful things that are happening out there, too. And it’s important that we (and our children) do. Hearing good news strengthens us in a way. It gives us encouragement, it raises our morale, and it presents a serious challenge to the nagging thought that the world has gone to hell.

That’s why I’m going to tell you an inspiring, marvelous, good samaritan kind of story that happened to me recently. You can pull it out and feast on it when the media offers you the latest “all the HORRIBLE news that’s fit to print” menu as you start your day. This story is packed with psychological nutrients and will leave you feeling far more satisfied and content.

So here’s what happened:

A few weeks ago I took my daughter and a couple other young women (who are almost my daughters) to Vermont for a long, girls-only weekend. We had a lovely time in the Green Mountains and I really enjoyed being with these warm, funny, smart people who I adore. They always remind me of how amazing many of today’s young women are.

So we have our fun, the weekend winds up, and it’s time to shove off. We stop for gas on our way out and before you know it we’re on the highway and well into the three hour drive home. As I walk into my house I see the light on my answering machine blinking. I push the button and hear an unfamiliar male voice urging me to call him as soon as I can.

I check the number (long distance) and don’t recognize it but make the call anyway. This guy answers and when I identify myself he booms into the phone, “Well, it’s about time!”

“Um, who is this?” I asked.

“Are you missing anything?” he says.

“I don’t know. What is this about?” I answer. At this point I was completely baffled.

“Well, have you checked your purse? I think I may have your wallet here.”

My mind was flipping all over the place at that point and I felt totally confused but I went to my purse and sure enough, no wallet.

“Where did you find it?” I asked. Last time I remembered seeing it was hours ago when we got gas in Manchester, Vermont.

“Well, my wife and my mother-in-law and I were coming home from the Congregational Church earlier today and we were on Rt. 7. We were driving along and my wife said, “That looked like a wallet we just passed.” (Mind you, Rt. 7 is the major freeway in that part of Vermont — a 55 mile-per-hour road that is well-travelled especially on the weekends.)

“So we went up to the next exit, turned around, and came back to where she thought she saw it.”

Now I’m in a state of total disbelief. I must have put the wallet on the back of the car while I was gassing up and then spaced out and left it there when I got back in. It must have stayed on the back trunk for 10 miles or so before falling off somewhere on Rt. 7.

“Anyway, we were able to run onto the highway and get it and I think everything is there except a couple of pennies that we couldn’t get to. So you should be just fine. We’ll Fed Ex it to you tomorrow and you should have it back by Tuesday. The wallet itself is pretty wrecked though. Looks like it got run over a lot.”

Okay, I’m NOT making this story up. This guy was true to his word and on Tuesday my wallet arrived home with my license, credit cards, checkbook and about $300.00 in it (a rarity for me, I usually have about five bucks in there).

Imagine what might have happened if they had not been so kind and thoughtful? I wouldn’t have known where or when my wallet disappeared. I would have been wracked with fears that it had been stolen. I would have been out $300.00. I would have had to cancel my credit cards and my checking account and gotten a new driver’s license. I would have had to deal with middle-of-the-night worries about identity theft. You get the picture.

But none of that happened. Instead, I was saved before I even knew I had a problem. I thanked him profusely, of course, and sent him a heartfelt note with the money for the Fed Ex and a really nice gift basket for his family. But I wanted to do more.

He and his wife had acted out of a true sense of kindness and concern for me, a total stranger. And since they had been coming from services at their church, I thought it would be great if I could find that church and relay the story to their minister. I wanted their minister to call them out before their congregation as people who were really living their faith.

So I started making calls to all the churches anywhere near where they had been driving. I told the story to all the ministers I got on the phone but nobody knew these people. One of them kindly offered to do some investigating on her own and promised to call if she got any leads. But she never called. They were all touched though, and my story brightened their day. A couple of them said they were going to tell the story to their congregations the following week.

I never found their church. But those sweet, caring people are out there. So if you ever happen to meet Doug or Wendi McCauley of Arlington, Vermont, give them a hug for me. And please tell this story to your kids and remind them that the world really is full of good news and good people, too.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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