Barry Saunders

A homeless good Samaritan goes the extra mile

Said his name was Andre, the stranger who knocked on Heather Smith’s door one morning last week.

He said, with as much delicacy as the subject allowed, that he had gone behind a building in downtown Raleigh to answer nature’s call – he’s homeless, see, and most of the stores downtown are allergic to the homeless – when he ended up answering a higher call.

It was a call from that inner voice that compels us to do the right thing when doing the wrong thing would be easier, potentially more profitable, certainly more convenient.

What Andre did was return the wallet that Smith’s husband, Sam, had lost.

It was stuffed with credit cards, a bank card and his driver’s license – no cash, Heather said, but “the scary thing” was that it contained a sheet of paper with their bank account number on it.

If you’ve ever lost your wallet, you know what a hassle it is to cancel cards, constantly check to see if somebody in China has bought a new motorcycle with your money – as happened to me last year – and to get a new license.

“We didn’t cancel the cards or the checking account because we had checks out and automatic drafts coming in, but we put a block on them. He was hoping it would turn up,” she said of her husband.

After awhile, though, she said, “We thought it was gone.”

‘I was so moved’

What, I asked, did she think when the stranger showed up with the wallet?

“I couldn’t believe it. ... It had been four days,” she said, awe still in her voice. “The effort he put into getting it to us was unbelievable. ... When my doorbell rang, I had no idea what he wanted. I thought he was coming to see if I needed any yardwork done. He had a rake tied to his bicycle with bungee cord. ... I was so moved that this man would go through all of that trouble for us.

“We think of the homeless and think that they want us to do for them. Instead, this man did for us. It’s a 45-minute bike ride from Moore Square” – where her husband surmised he lost the wallet – to their house.

Andre told her about going behind a building to use the bathroom and finding her husband’s wallet.

The contents had been scattered all over the ground, and Andre gathered them up and placed them back in the wallet. “He said he knew it was important to somebody.

“He said, ‘I got your address from your husband’s driver’s license and I flagged a cab driver down and asked him where the house was.’

The cab driver gave Andre directions to their home.

“He pulled out a McDonald’s napkin, and he had all the turns to our house,” she said of Andre. “A left turn on this street, a right turn on this street. The cab driver had written it all down for him.

“He really didn’t expect anything in return. He certainly took the money that I gave him, but he didn’t expect it. ... He said if we hadn’t been home, he was going to leave it on our porch.

“As he was leaving, he asked me if I knew anyone who needed some yardwork done,” she said.

I know the feeling

Sam Smith, Heather’s husband, reminds me of me. I lost my wallet twice last Thursday. I got it back both times. It was returned by an idiot: me.

It’s like this: I was wearing this cool, lime-green, multipocketed jacket – like one Fred Williamson wore in the classic flick “Hell Up In Harlem.”

What I didn’t realize was that two of those pockets were strictly decorative and whenever I’d stick the wallet in them, it would slide straight to the ground. I found it both times lying on the ground next to my whip, unmolested.

Had it been molested, someone would’ve gotten $9 cash, an essentially decorative bank card and a coupon for a free sandwich if I bought one, too.

As long as there are people like Sam and me, we should be grateful that there are people like Andre.

Saunders: 919-836-2811 or bsaunders@newsobserver.com

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