On Tuesday as K and I were walking to her class, as we’ve done hundreds of times before, we were deep in important conversation. I can’t recall what the conversation was about and the topic wasn’t the important part. It was that we were talking. Chatting. Laughing. Smiling. And strolling down the sidewalk. We weren’t in a rush. She didn’t have a bunch of homework to do. I was done working for the night. Her hair looked perfect. And I was wearing my polka dot trench coat and toting my bright red purse. We both felt lovely. And sassy. With a spring in both our steps we neared a corner and I noticed that a bus was waiting at the bus stop as Portland busses often do when they’re running early. A few feet away from the open bus door a twenty-dollar bill lay face-up on the sidewalk. I smiled and scooped it up in my hand thinking about all the lost and found dollars of my life and turned to the open bus door. I asked the waiting driver if anyone had dropped it.
I admit, that was a dumb question. How was she supposed to know? And she did look at me, for a moment, like I was an idiot. But then she replied that only one guy had gotten on the bus. I peered down the length of the bus and asked her which one.
Again, the look. But she replied by kindly shouting “Hey! Guy that just got on!” A man looked up and I asked “Did you drop anything?”
As he stood up and walked to the front of the bus he answered “I hope not!” and started to pat himself down as folks tend to do when they feel something is missing. I held out the bill and handed it to him. His eyes lit up, he brushed a long curly brown lock of hair out of his face and smiled. “Thank you. Wow. Thank you!” he said. I smiled and stepped off the bus to see a smile on my daughter’s face. And we started to walk away until a voice from the bus door said again “Thank you. I want you to take it. A reward for being honest and doing the right thing!” I told him it wasn’t necessary. But he insisted, “I’m not broke or anything, and I want you to take it. Please.” He held out the bill to me and I smiled and said “Okay. Thanks!”
And he smiled. And the bus driver smiled. And I smiled. And my daughter smiled and then quickly animatedly pointed out that there was a woman running to catch the bus. The bus driver nodded at her and the man who wanted me to keep the money returned to his seat and the woman running to the bus caught up and stepped inside.
It was a perfect moment for so many reasons. A restoration of faith for many people. As we walked I folded up the twenty and slipped it into my pocket as K imagined aloud where that woman might have been on her way to and rejoiced in the fact that she caught her bus. And then mentioned how happy the attempt to return the money had made the bus driver and the man we tried to return it to.
We talked all the way to her class and she let me hug her as she went inside and I left to meet a friend. As I walked back the way we came I reached into my pocket to fish out the twenty. Such a little thing but it had a big impact on my day. As my fingers scrounged in my pocket to feel the soft paper I thought about what those twenty dollars might mean to other people. I fished around my pocket some more but came up empty. I checked my other pocket with the same result. And my bright red purse.
I guess I dropped it as I tried to slip it in my pocket and the money was back in the wind. I like to imagine that it found its way into the hands of someone who needed it. Or made more people smile. Or helped someone catch a bus to somewhere they needed to be. That twenty was worth so much more than face value.