Couple stopping to help old man walk, with a third lady watching.

Doing Good for Others, Does Good for You

I slipped through the revolving door of the office building I worked in and stepped onto the cracked sidewalk that lined Broad Street in Newark, New Jersey. A light drizzle and a depressing grey sky enhanced the depravity of the area. The buildings on both sides of the street were old and in need of repair or, in some instances, a wrecking ball.

A few seconds later, a woman wearing a coat four sizes too big for her - probably a throw away from the used clothing store down the street - stepped up to me, displayed a smile of many gaps and begged, "Mister, can you help a person out? I haven't eaten in almost two days."

I handed her a few quarters and watched her saunter off. She held her hand out as she walked and counted the change she'd collected on that dreary afternoon. I guessed food was the furthest thing from her mind - crack was more her line of nutrition.

That area and most of Newark were poverty stricken and ruled by drugs and crime.In the few short months I worked there, I'd witnessed a stolen car, pursued by police, turn a corner and hit another car head on. The thieves leapt from the wreckage and ran off with the police in hot pursuit. A month after that, a man's car was stolen from the parking lot behind our building while he negotiated the fee with the attendant. This was a place where you held your belongings tightly and didn't venture far after dark.

I walked to the corner, stopped by the door of the ATM machine, checked to be sure no one followed close and quickly slipped my bank card into the slot. There was a buzz and click as the door unlocked. I walked inside and made sure no one stepped in behind me.

I put my card into the machine and deposited my paycheck with a sigh of relief. As I turned to leave, I saw a wallet sitting on the counter. It sat next to a pen on a chain so thin a kitten could have snapped it. The wallet was brown, well used and contained three dollars, a driver's license, two credit cards, a bank card and a work permit from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The name on the license was one I would not attempt to pronounce, but whoever he was, he was going to be in a panic over a wallet with his identification on it being lost in this city.

I put it in my pocket, walked to Penn Station and took the train home to Jersey City. In my apartment, I checked the online phone book and found no one to match the name on the cards in the wallet. I wanted to help the guy. If it had been my wallet, I would have been sick to my stomach with worry. I picked up the bank card and had a thought. On the back was the number to his bank.

"Thank you for calling Wachovia Bank. My name is Cindy, how may I help you?" "Hi, Cindy. I found a man's wallet at one of your bank machines today and am trying to track down the owner to return it to him."

"That's very nice of you sir. Can you give me the number on the card please?" I gave her the number. "Sir, that card has been reported stolen."

"I'm sure it has, but what he did was leave it on the shelf in the room where the ATM is. Can you give me his phone number? I want to arrange to meet with him to return his wallet."

"I'm sorry, sir, but we cannot give out the personal information of our clients."

"I understand. Can I give you my contact information? You could call him and tell him who I am."

"I can certainly do that, Sir."

I gave her my information and hung up.

I'd done all I could.

Two days later, a very thankful gentleman appeared at our front desk and received his belongings. He never dreamed he would see his wallet again, not one left at a bank machine in Newark.


I smiled all day long.  Doing good for others, does good for you.

~ Michael T. Smith ~
Copyright © 2012

Michael lives in Ohio with his wife Ginny and his stepdaughter's family. You can see a list of Mike's stories here: And you can get his stories emailed to you by signing up here:  Let Michael know what you think of his story:  Michael T. Smith
[ by: Michael T. Smith Copyright © 2012, ( ) - {used with permission} ]

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