Jerry Maguire once uttered in Dorothy Boyd’s living room, “We live in a cynical world, a cynical world,” and while I normally wouldn’t be one to dispute this, things sometimes happen that turns this assumption on its head. Case in point: two months ago my family encountered a state of upheaval after my wife’s surprise ankle surgery, and the outpouring of assistance and care we received from friends, family and co-workers was heartwarming, turning difficult days into manageable ones.
Now, someone like Jerry Maguire might say, “Sure, friends and family might come through, but what about the guy on the street? The average Joe Schmo will swindle you out of your last dime if he’s able.”
I’m not so sure.
Last month my son and I drove through much of Ohio as we visited the University of Cincinnati, Ohio State and Case Western, and upon our return home on Interstate 80, I received a phone call from my still-convalescing wife.
“I just received a text from someone saying they have your wallet. Do you have it on you?” With one hand on the steering wheel, I patted by jean’s pockets. My wallet was nowhere to be found.
After a frantic transfer of information, I was soon talking to a woman and her husband who were shopping about 60 miles east and who’d found my wallet on the parking lot floor of the Steak ‘n Shake in Elyria, Ohio. My son and I had made a quick stop for a banana shake, a way of celebrating having visited three colleges in two days, and upon getting back in the car I had apparently dropped my wallet while retrieving my phone from my front pocket.
We quickly exited the turnpike and turned around, and while we raced along the highway in the wrong direction, I summoned my inner Jerry Maguire, my mind flipping through all the possible ways this could go wrong: the couple might not show, using this hour of time to go on a shopping spree; they might return my wallet but in time I’ll discover charges on my credit card statement, and on and on.
Instead, I was greeted in the parking lot of an Ohioan McDonald’s by two of the nicest people who not only returned my wallet, but also refused any money in return and who humorously told the tale of how they tracked me down. After a few false starts on Facebook where a few other Paul Heinz’s happily strung the honest couple along for a while, they found my wife’s business card (I didn’t even know I had her business card) and made the connection.
We bid farewell, and with wallet securely in hand, I returned to the turnpike with my son, a few hours behind our original schedule, but a few lightyears ahead emotionally, our faith in mankind momentarily restored.
It’s so very easy to sink into the seas of cynicism, but every once in a while, a life jacket gets tossed in our direction. It’s best to hold on and never let go.