Monday, July 26, 2010


You have to think that we continue to procreate and recreate and create and tally forth because, on balance, we, as a people, commit more acts of kindness than acts of unkindness. We aid and abet rather than kick, topple and destroy.

Yesterday, on that terribly delayed bus from Minneapolis to Chicago with a stop in Madison, I saw more compassion than complaint, more sympathy than anger. It made the ride that much better for everyone.


Do you remember my issue of early April? My little purse fell out of my backpack on an Air France flight. I lost then and there all ID cards and credit cards, as well as some 150 Euros in cash. I filled out search forms and made inquiries and got nowhere. Form emails told me that if I do not hear from Air France within two weeks, I should assume all was lost and proceed accordingly.

So I proceeded accordingly ...until, lo, almost two months later, I received an email that my purse had been found and I could have it back for a mere 65 Euro (maybe $85) shipping fee.

I hesitated for a long long time. Most cards had been replaced. The purse had been replaced. The wallet had been replaced. Okay, a new UW ID was still on my "to do" list, but there, the fee is a mere $25. Surely less than 65 Euros. No brainer: let it go.

And yet...

You have to think that we continue to procreate and recreate and tally forth because, on balance, we as a people commit more acts of kindness than acts of unkindness...

Last week I finally became comfortable with sending in 65 Euros for the purse. I knew, deep inside I knew, that doing the right thing (sending back the purse, with the 150 Euros in it) would feel good for the finder of it and that given the chance, most would err on the side of good.

Today, the package came.

We tore open the many protective layers, we took out the old tattered little bag, we looked inside. Aha. All credit cards (now cancelled, but still...) and ID cards accounted for.

And the money purse is there as well.

I open it and peak inside.

No bills. No 150 Euros.

Almost as a joke, I think, the person left behind the coins: 1 Euro and 65 cents.

I felt deeply disappointed. In human kind, in the spirit that pushes us toward survival of the kindest, the best of the lot, the fair, the honest.

But then I thought: well, say a passenger finds the bag wedged under the seat. She picks it up, looks inside. She wants to give it up in its entirety, but then she thinks – if I give it to the Air France agent, then either the agent, or the lost and found agent, or the shipping agent will pull the cash right out of it. So it may as well be me who gets the bonanza. Why should I make it easy for someone else to profit unfairly from my honesty?

So the better (for me) interpretation is that we are all good people at heart. We just don’t fully trust that the next person will also be a good person.

And I wont contribute to that thought process by being, henceforth, distrustful. I prefer to remember the many many conversations that took place between strangers on the curb in Minneapolis, waiting for five hours for the bus to come. Kind, good people who opened their souls with stories of life’s tragedies and good deeds. My kind of people.