I found a wallet

I found a wallet, 
I found a wallet
Inside were pictures of your small family
You were so young, your hair dark brown
You had been born in 1953
Your winter birthday was stamped on the plastic
Of a license so recently expired
I was so tired as I walked through my door
I let all the contents of your wallet on the floor

And like a holy relic
Or a mystery novel
I thumbed them in the dim light
Searching for a clue-
A Blockbuster card,
An old stick of Juicy Fruit
A crumpled receipt for a pair of leather boots

I have no wallet,
I have no wallet
I keep my cards together with a blue rubber band
And with a free hand I search in my pocket
For pieces of, pieces of paper and change

I’ll take your wallet
To my local Blockbuster
They’ll find your number
in their computer
You’ll never know me
I’ll never know you
But you will be so happy
When they call you up.

Regina Spektor, Wallet

This lunchtime, it being 26C outside and all, my work colleagues and I went to the pocket park next to our building to escape our basement office and get some sun.

On the floor behind our bench, we found the contents of a make up bag, scattered about, and after further investigation and rummaging through the bushes, discovered the handbag and strewn contents of a Frenchwoman’s handbag.

The poor woman had obviously been robbed, her wallet riffled through and the valuable contents stolen, before everything else – her driver’s license, make up, keys – were thrown into the shrubbery.

We contemplated our find and deliberated about what the appropriate thing would be to do with it. Should we pick it up or would the police need to fingerprint it? So I called the main switchboard to check and was asked to bring it in.

It’s amazing how much the contents of someone’s bag reveals about them. As well as the essential items, she had a keyring with a picture of her husband and children, a copy of the Lord’s Prayer on a beaten up piece of paper, two pairs of glasses, endless tissues, and a card that informed us her blood group is O rhesus negative.

In amongst the bumf was a train ticket for Paris at ten past two. We all looked at one another. Should we see if we could find her and return her bag to her? So P and I ran to St Pancras to see if we could restore her possessions to her.

Sadly, the ticket was from Paris to Toulouse, rather than to Paris. We had misread it, but the official we spoke to told us a French woman had been robbed outside the station that morning at around 8am, and that using the ticket reference number, they’d be able to contact her to return her bag.

We were excited about the good we were doing, and they looked genuinely delighted that we’d taken the time and thought to try and set right what was wrong.

Out of her bag in the station we dropped a small vial of her perfume, which broke on the floor. I picked it up not to leave litter, and now my hands smell of the fragrance of a complete stranger.

I’ve enjoyed imagining a French woman, somewhere miles away in Toulouse, smelling a certain way, having her bag returned to her and with it, a little bit of the life that the fear of being robbed has stolen from her.

Easter is a season of restoration, based on the story that God came to fix us up in a single act of restorative justice that has returned life to us. And every time we do something like that for someone else, maybe we get left with the smell of his presence on our fingers…

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3 responses to “I found a wallet

  1. Pingback: I found a wallet (via Me and the Girl from Clapham) « adamabdelkarim·

  2. I’d be happy hearing that in church on a Sunday. Thanks for your profound thoughts. And I’m sure you made that woman’s day, if not year! There are good people in the world after all… 🙂 xxx

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