A few years ago, a wonderful stranger found my wallet in the parking lot of a Bluffton grocery store and brought it to customer service.
The stranger took nothing.
It was nearly two months, though, before I knew this. That's two months after the oh-so-fun experience (and expense) of replacing everything.
The wallet, it turned out, had been sitting in the grocery store's safe that whole time even though I had left my name and number with customer service, where I was told not to hold out hope. "It's probably in the trash," I remember the woman saying. "Somebody probably found it, took the cash and threw out the rest."
That wasn't just deflating to hear because it was my wallet we were talking about; it was such a depressing outlook to have. "Really?," I said. I don't remember how she responded exactly, but it translated to "It's gone, Pollyanna. That's how the world works. Go play your little Glad Game somewhere else."
The wallet remained in the safe, by the way, despite the four forms of ID that were in it -- that's three picture IDs along with business cards listing my phone number -- despite me returning to the store twice and asking for updates and despite one of the managers there knowing me personally. It was a real comedy of errors.
It took another wonderful stranger to change all this, a man who was an employee of the store and whose daughter worked in our finance department. He told her. She told me. And within 10 minutes, I was humming Peaches & Herb on my way to the store.
After it all sunk in, though, I tattled on every last blasè culprit at that store. I called corporate and spent 15 solid minutes saying "But that makes no sense" to a person who was probably making "blah blah" motions with her hand every time I said it.
The one thing I didn't do, though, was reflect enough on the parking lot person -- the mystery human who didn't take the cash or throw out the rest.
This person is everywhere, reminding us daily that no matter how many stories we hear about people's creatively despicable behavior toward each other, there are many kind, decent and honest neighbors among us.
"Not a penny was taken," a still-amazed and very grateful Loretta Anderson told me Wednesday morning at her Bluffton home.
Anderson, who had never lost a wallet before, inadvertently left hers at the Dollar Tree in Bluffton. The cashier stuffed all of Anderson's purchases into a single bag, which broke just as Anderson was going through the routine of putting her credit card in her wallet and her wallet back in her bag.
Her odds and ends went everywhere.
"I put my purse down and went to pick up some of the items," she said. "I never put my wallet back in my purse. With all that was going on, I was disrupted ... I was anxious to get out of the store."
A customer later found the wallet and gave it to a cashier.
"Thank God!," Anderson said. "I thought of the ramifications of losing a wallet and oh ... I was so annoyed with myself."
Two days later, Anderson found herself in a similar situation when she left the Walgreens in Bluffton where she had just bought a supply of Ensure and some champagne (because she is awesome).
Another vehicle had parked so closely to Anderson's car that Anderson had to wait for the other person to leave first. When the other person finally did leave, Anderson took off, too, but without her groceries, which were still in the cart on the sidewalk.
"I came home," she said. "No packages."
She called the store to see if maybe, just maybe, someone had turned in the bags. Sure enough, a man had seen them in the cart and brought them in to the store.
Anderson wishes she knew the names of the strangers.
"I would thank them profusely," she said, "and tell them what a difference they made in my life. Those things can be replaced and re-bought. We hear so much about how selfish and not right people are. People who show kindness fall through the cracks."
Pat Abell, a part-time resident of Fripp Island, left her wallet in the ladies room at the Publix on Lady's Island in early April.
"I don't know why I did that," she said. "I got home and 'oh ... where's my wallet?' I tore my car apart."
Abell called the store and described the black-and-white houndstooth wristlet to them. The wallet had been turned in by another customer.
No money was missing, not even the gift card she had just purchased.
"I was so impressed," she said from her home in Kentucky. "I was most pleasantly surprised, but then I remembered where I was ... I think people in Beaufort are just terrific."
Abell said she still wishes she could thank the person who turned in her wallet face-to-face.
"I would've been glad to give them a reward for a safe return."
Vashti Cintron of Bluffton recently dropped her wallet outside of Corner Perk in Old Town.
"It sucks to lose a wallet," she said. "You feel naked. You think 'Oh no. This isn't going to end well. I hope no one does something bad with it.' It was such a headache. My ID was in there. I had no bank card. No way to prove I was me."
With a pit in her stomach, Cintron returned to Corner Perk to no avail and then went home. There was a strange car sitting outside her house and a man she didn't know in her driveway.
"'No way! No way! No way!,' I thought. A little part of me was like, 'Wouldn't it be nice if someone found my wallet and it was at my house waiting for me?' When he said my name, I knew."
Cintron, interestingly enough, was not at all surprised by this.
"I was excited," she said. "but no, if I found someone's wallet I would do everything I could to find that person. We live in such a local community. It's not big, like a city, like New York. You can find people with a little effort. ... You can track someone down on Facebook."
The man -- yet another person among us who reminds us that there are good people in this world -- smiled and laughed when Cintron approached him.
"I said 'thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you ....' I don't know how many times I said it.
"I couldn't thank him enough."