My Newlyfound Faith In America’s Youth by Rick London

   Today’s teens. All we see on the news is violence, drugs, and an arrogant refusal to obey laws that don’t fit their lifestyles.   Yesterday, I was proven that’s not always so. In fact, that whole stereotype was blown out of the water. 

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    A little history first which led to this pleasantly surprising experience.

      I need a new wallet. I know that. But like a favorite T-shirt, coffee cup, etc. (and it’s not that I’m some kind of “material guy”, I’m not. I just “get to know  it” and it feels comfortable), I still have my 3 year old wallet. Maybe that’s why I’ve kept my same Saturn for years because I fit well in it, it doesn’t break down, it’s paid for, and why make a new debt on a new car that I’d have to get to know, and it would have to get to know me back.

      So this old wallet I have is a bit shabby and I keep a lot of junk in it that I should toss out; but for some reason in the back of my mind, I am absolutely positive this July 11, 2010 receipt from Walmart or Kroger is going to be very important. 

       When I was in the hospital in 2010, my car tag sticker expired and it was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t drive for several months anyway. My wife Lee did.  So I drove around about a year with an expired sticker and finally was pulled over about 8 months ago (for a non-moving violation).  The police officer asked to see all my papers and license. I had to dig through my wallet (and of course there was no registration renewal etc) so my ticket was high.  But worse than that, I felt like I could have expedited that traffic violation (am sure the officer had more important matters than pulling over an old guy with an expired tag), by just being more organized.  I immediately took care of it the next day at the courthouse.  We live outside of a small beautiful Arkansas town in the Ouachita Mountains. It is like a paradise to us.  We feel like kids again.  That’s pretty fun stuff.   Here’s a pic from our office window in case you’ve not seen it.


     Lee had gotten a fanny pack which is fantastic; no longer even uses a purse, and wears it hiking or when we’re out running errands or shopping. She suggested I get one too. I did. That was after I paid the $160 ticket; and paid to get everything renewed. Ouch.

     She couldn’t talk me into getting rid of my wallet (which I keep in the pouch) but she did talk me into organizing things better.  I keep everything to do with the car in a plastic pouch aside from everything else so, that if I ever get pulled over again, I can whip it right out, get my ticket if I’m guilty of something, and the officer can be on his/her way. 

      Several days ago I was shopping at Kroger alone while Lee was hiking.  At some point during shopping, I noticed the zipper was open in my fanny pouch. I think I’d left it open while pumping and paying for gas and forgot to zip it back (or zipped it partially).  In any case, I took a close look into it) and everything looked fine. 

      Last night was the Jewish Holiday of Purim.  It is a festive holiday in which all dress up and be kids again.  I am not sure what it celebrates, as I rarely celebrated it as a kid, but Lee and I had fun dressing up.  She was a butterfly and played the part well.  I put a flashlight in my head, and my plan was to pull out my driver’s license and say, “I’m a minor, but I’ve got an ID”.  I did so because for some reason I’d removed my driver’s from my “everything pertaining to auto plastic packet”, but noticed the plastic packet containing my registration, birth certificate, registration, insurance card etc. were all missing. I called the state DMV but they were closed and of course the local one was too. Then I realized with my birth certificate gone, I’m going to have to reorder one online, take it in with me along with my license and by another registration and title etc.  It was going to be a big hassle.

But Lee kindly said, “Don’t worry baby. I’ll drive you there tomorrow and we’ll take care of it”.  She alerted me they’d probably complete the process with my license and social security card.  The pretty much know me there anyway so it would be silly if they didn’t.   We’re good citizens, don’t make a lot of noise, and don’t cause anyone any trouble.

Today my phone rang 3 times.  Two of the three were sales calls and I let them go to voice mail.  The third one came in at about 11:00 a.m.  It was a local number and though I didn’t recognize it, I figured it might be someone I knew anyway, so I answered.  Someone asked if it was me (mispronouncing “Stetelman” as everyone does) and I said “yes”. He was very polite. He said, “I was in Kroger yesterday and found a plastic pouch with a bunch of auto papers and found your number on one of them”.  

I had wondered why he had not handed it in to Kroger lost and found but didn’t enquire. I was just thrilled he’d found it.  I’d called Kroger lost and found to no avail. 

I looked out the window as he was telling me how he found it. It was by then pouring down rain and thundering.  I always think of Fleetwood Mac during such times. “Thunder only happens when it’s raining”, and wondered how many days, weeks or months it took them to come up with a line that rhymed with “Players only love you when they’re playin’”, as, in my “wannabe expert musical mind”, I felt certain they’d written the second line first, as it was the basic premise of their true lives, and the weather parallel was only of semi importance to the song…but not important in this story.

I figured the young man to be maybe an adult college student.  Maybe 30 by his mature but youthful phone voice.  Extremely polite, calling me “sir” more than I was used to be called “sir”.  In any case his manners and articulation was well beyond my abilities.  He even said he would bring it by this afternoon. 

I called him about 3:30 pm this afternoon and the rain was still coming down. I told him maybe it would be better to bring it tomorrow, and Lee had agreed if its not too far, we could pick it up today. The rain had slowed a bit.

He asked if it might be okay if he brought it by about 9:30 tomorrow morning and I said “fine” and thanked him again and hung up. I was not planning on going anywhere today anyway, and if I did, Lee is a great driver.

About 10 minutes later he called me back from his home; about 7 miles away off of Airport Road and said, “You know what? I forgot I’ve got to come downtown anyway to fill up my jugs (he wasn’t saying anything risqué. If you live here awhile you know what that means. The city has a free fountain with four taps where anyone can freely fill up as much as they want of the healthiest water in the world; water that has been running underground for 2000 years, has no chemicals, is full of heavy minerals from the crystal rock it runs over, and tastes so good.  You get a lite version of the real water if you ever buy Mountain Valley Water (in the green bottles with the red label). It’s tasty; and Elvis even had it delivered monthly all the way to Memphis as it was the only water he would drink, but it is nothing close to the real thing.  There’s has been sitting awhile. It’s still good, but not fresh out of the ground.  The difference is day and night and people come from miles around with truckloads of jugs to get the fountain water which is on the way to one of our hikes so we have easy access to it and always have jugs by our desk.

Alex, as I found his name to be, said, “I’ll call you when I get to your place”.  The phone rang about an hour later. It was Alex.  He was downstairs and I let him in.

Alex was a tall slim well-dressed African American male no older than 20 but probably closer to 18 or so.  He’d just gotten off work from Oaklawn (the local racetrack). He handed me my little plastic pouch which had every single paper, nothing missing.   I looked in my wallet and had one $20 and handed it to him.  He put his hands up as if he couldn’t accept it but I placed it in his hand and closed it and apologized.

He said, “Why are you sorry”.  I said, “Because $20 is all I have with me, and I’ve not been to the bank. If you have a Paypal account I’ll send you the balance of what you saved me or if not a snail address and I’ll mail it.”

He was still trying to give me the twenty back.  He  finally accepted it, but said, “You don’t owe me anymore, really”, and then thanked me again for being “so kind sir”.

I explained to him that he’d probably saved me double that, and, finally I talked him into his home address so I can send the balance there. 

He was so grateful for the $20 after he finally accepted it.  He said, “I really didn’t expect any kind of reward. It’s just the right thing to do”.  I could tell he had very good upbringing. His manners were not fake. He was warm, friendly and bright.  He was, as I guessed also working his way through school at the local community college.  The $20 meant a lot, but he still didn’t feel comfortable  asking for anything for doing the right thing. 

We chatted a bit more about school, since I don’t care for horse racing, I figured I’d chat about something we both found interesting.  He’s studying computer science and plans to be some sort of engineer.  (I’d forgotten what type), but he certainly knew all the buzz words and was still a freshman.

We finally shook hands, I thanked him again and he drove off.   Lee and I had been watching the news (we often do as we work) and anyone who is even a bit of a news junkie knows how much bad news there is out there.  And a great deal of it is about “today’s kids”, and it’s right; a lot of today’s kids have a lot of issues that perhaps we didn’t, but then again we didn’t have to face a lot of the same things they do today. 

This young man was optimistic, enthusiastic and honest.  He did not fit the mold of what the news has profiled today’s teens to be.  I thought to myself, “Just think of all the suffering I could have avoided through life if I had been as wise as he, at even twice his age.

And it was the best $20 I ever remember investing.

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I am known to be a goofy vegan mountain man.   I like to do creative things; and sometimes succeed, and sometimes not.   I founded LTCartoons.com in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005.  It is also #1 on Bing.   I also create Famous Love Quotes & Famous Wisdom Quote Gifts at several of my online shops such as RickLondonWisdomShop.com. I love hiking, animals, kids, nature, movies, reading, etc etc and Amazon Kindle Fire.  That’s about it.

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