Barry Saunders

Saunders: A good deed to remember as we celebrate the holidays

Barry Saunders reads 'The Night Before Christmas'

News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders reads Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem and, as Barry tends to do, adds some of his special "commentary".
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News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders reads Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem and, as Barry tends to do, adds some of his special "commentary".

Chandra Roughton and her girlfriends were headed out for a night on the town Friday evening when one of them took sick and they changed their minds and immediately returned home.

The night out lasted mere minutes, but it was long enough for Roughton, a retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran, to lose her wallet and cellphone.

“I must’ve dropped it when I got out of the car in the parking lot” where she lives, Roughton told me Monday. “I didn’t notice it until the next morning. Everything was in it – cash, debit card, driver’s license. ... I’m not in a position to lose anything.”

When she couldn’t find her cellphone the next morning, she asked her aunt to dial her number.

“A man named Andre answered and said he’d found it,” she told me. “He said he’d give it back if we met him in Cary.”

They did, and he did.

Roughton and her aunt thanked Andre, but before they left, she said, the Good Samaritan nonchalantly shared something semi-shocking with Chandra. “He said he’d been in the newspaper before for returning someone’s wallet,” Roughton said. She was skeptical – who wouldn’t be, encountering some professed Finder of Lost Wallets? – but looked up the story on the Internet and saw that he was telling the truth.

Andre is one of the memorable people to whom I introduced you this year – if not the most memorable, then certainly in the top five. He is also a good person of whom to remind you during the holiday season and at year’s end, when we could all stand to know a goodhearted person.

Andre is one of the memorable people to whom I introduced you this year – if not the most memorable, then certainly in the top five. He is also a good person of whom to remind you during the holiday season and at year’s end, when we could all stand to know a goodhearted person.

He was homeless when I met him last March, and he told me how he’d gone behind a building downtown to relieve himself – hey, there are no executive washrooms for the homeless – and discovered a wallet with its innards strewn across the ground.

He placed the personal information – the credit cards, driver’s license and other accumulated detritus of daily living – back into it and set forth on a mission to return it to its owner. In his quest, he enlisted a cab driver, who wrote on a napkin directions to the address he got off the driver’s license. He then hopped onto his bike and rode several miles to Heather Smith’s house.

“He pulled out a McDonald’s napkin, and he had all the turns to our house” written on it, Smith told me in March. It was her husband’s wallet that Andre had found.

“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.”

After that story, many of you called with offers to help Andre find a place to live, yards to rake, a chance at a new beginning.

For a few months afterward, he and I kept in touch, but knowing – as the poet Robert Frost wrote - how way leads to way, we went on living our separate lives and fell out of touch.

I’d heard nothing of or from him until Monday, when Roughton told me yet another tale of a wallet that once was lost but now it’s found, thanks to a man on a bike named Andre. I haven’t any idea where Andre sleeps these nights, but I guarantee you he sleeps well, his dreams untroubled by wrongdoing.

The phone number I had for him is no longer connected, so if y’all see a dude riding around with a rake tied to his bike, and who answers to Honest Andre, tell him to give me a buzz.

Oh yeah: Merry Christmas.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, bsaunders@newsobserver.com, @BarrySaunders9

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