A Thanksgiving Story About One of Those 47-Percenters
Tuesday I had to go over to Newark to visit a client to provide training for the new CMS (content management system) we installed for their website. The visit was uneventful. I wrapped things up and left, then called for a taxi and went outside to wait for it. The neighborhood isn’t a terribly rough one (at least not by East Coast standards), but it’s adjacent to a somewhat ghetto-ish one.
So I was sitting on one of those big tree planters futzing around with the camera on my new iPod and must’ve missed my cell phone slipping out of the side pocket of my purse. I got home, settled back down in front of my computer, and got back to work, never realizing that my phone was missing.
A couple of hours later my land line rang. I didn’t even look at the Caller ID. The man on the other end said he had no idea who he was calling, but he’d found a cell phone over by [redacted] and since my number was in it he thought I might be able to tell him who it belonged to because he’d like to return it.
I told him that I most certainly did know who it belonged to—me!—then I told him how I thought I’d lost it. I thanked him for his honesty and told him that it was always heartening to to be reminded how many good people there still are in the world. That did it—all of a sudden he got all choked up, told me he was “just trying to please the Lord”, and then began telling me his story.
He said his name was Mr. S and he was originally from Fayetteville, NC. He’d worked as a private security guard for most of his life, but was retired now. He said years ago he’d done something bad that he felt “made the Lord angry”, and while he’d tried to make up for it and never repeated the mistake, he often felt like his life just wasn’t worth living. He said every time he hit that low point something would happen that gave him an opportunity to do a good deed, and he felt that was “the Lord telling me to keep going.”
I just sat there for a few seconds, gob smacked: Is this guy nuts? Why is he telling me all this? What do I say?? Then the old taxi driver in me took over and I decided to just go with the flow.
I told him I was quite sure his life was worth living seeing as how he was a good enough man to go to the trouble of trying to locate a total stranger so he could return their cell phone. I told him I understood his need to do good deeds and was very happy that the Lord was watching over him. I then thanked him again for his efforts at which point he asked me (between sniffles) when he could bring it to me. I told him that I didn’t live Newark, but he could go to the front office of the building I’d been in and ask for Ms. N and she’d see that I got it back. He said the knew the building well and wanted to know what time he should go there the next morning. I told him 8:00 AM was probably good as they get started early.
He went on to tell me that he’s officially retired as of last week is glad he walks around the neighborhood a lot because being able to return my phone means, “I’m getting another message from the Lord is a sign that I need to keep trying.” His utter sincerity made my heart feel all squishy (I was nearly in tears myself by then, heh).
I told him that if he’d also leave his address with Ms. N when he dropped off the phone, I’d be honored to send him a note or a card once in a while so that he’d know someone was thinking of him. He lit up when I said that and promised to leave his contact info, then asked if I would please call him from my cell when I got it back. I promised I would, then told him I was Muslim and, if he didn’t mind, I’d also like to keep him in my prayers. As expected, he said it didn’t matter one bit and he’d be very happy if I’d do so.
I thanked him one more time for all his efforts and he assured me that he was going to turn off the phone after we hung up so my battery wouldn’t die. How sweet is that? We said our goodbyes and hung up. I sat there for a while trying to digest the encounter.
After a few minutes I called our client to let her know what had happened. She thought it was a wonderful story and said she’s going to share it with her staff, some of whom aren’t from the area and are “afraid to even walk across the street here.” Then I called my boss to let her know about it since it’s a company cell phone and she’s responsible for the bill. Being of the same mindset as Ms. N and myself, she was willing to believe the phone would be returned and also thought it was a great story.
I know some of the cynics out there are probably thinking it was incredibly naive of me to trust Mr. S, but sometimes you just have to believe in people. Is he mentally unstable? Maybe, maybe not, but he’s a human being who is clearly hurting and striving for redemption by doing good deeds to please his Lord, regardless of what anyone thinks about his belief in such. If that belief gives him the incentive he needs and helps him feel that he’s worthy of being alive, then it’s a good thing in my book.
For the record, he did indeed show up Wednesday morning at [redacted]. As a matter of fact, he showed up early, at 7:30 AM! Our client, Ms. N, said he was indeed an older man and was wearing dark glasses. She said he was extremely sweet and seemed monumentally relieved at having been able to complete his mission of returning the phone. She dropped the phone off to me around 6:00 PM Wednesday evening. I tried to call Mr. S as I’d promised to do, but didn’t get an answer. I guess I’ll try again tomorrow or Friday. I think I’m also going to create a hand-made Christmas card for him because he seems like the kind of person who’d appreciate something like that.
Oh, and Mr. Romney? I know you’ll never read this, but Mr. S—an honest man, a God-fearing man, a man who worked hard all his life, a man who made a mistake once years ago still regrets it—is part of the 47% that you so casually & contemptuously insulted and then dismissed like so much rubbish. Shame on you and all the other Bible-thumping, race-bating, dog-whistling people in your party. If you’d gotten down off your high horse for a minute and bothered to discover for yourself what those 47% are made of, maybe you’d have shown more wisdom, had more respect for ALL Americans, and would be be planning your move to the White House and picking your staff & cabinet members right now instead of licking your wounds and snarking about how it’s not your fault you lost.
Mr. S, you’re a kind, decent, humble man and a good American, and this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for having crossed your path and thankful for the millions of others like you who are out there trudging stoically to work everyday, reminding us of what’s good & right, and keeping the wheels of our nation turning.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.