I have,sadly, become something of a cynic in my old age and it's not a happy thing to be. The world is darker, inspiration harder to find and humans are constantly disappointing me. But today, my faith in the goodness of human nature was renewed.
Howie Klein asked John Amato and I to an event last night at the Grammy Museum, which is in downtown LA near the Staples center and the convention center. It was a fabulous Q&A and concert with the great Jazz trumpet player Terrance Blanchard and his band. Unfortunately, when I got back in my car after the event I found that my wallet was missing. This venue is huge, tens of thousands of people are there at any given time from all over the area and all over the world. Whether stolen or lost, I had no hope that I would ever see it again. Just another night in the Naked City. I felt very down.
This morning I got a call from the Santa Monica Police telling me that a good Samaritan had found my wallet and they had called the police to tell them they would like to return it. (My phone number wasn't in it.) I was stunned. And I also felt a little bit elated. It's been a while since something surprised me in quite this way. (That cynicism again.) So I happily took the Good Samaritan's number and called him.
This man's name is Kurt Thompson, and he works for an aerospace supplier in Gardena, a few miles south from where I live. He told me that his employee Albert Garcia had found the wallet last night, brought it to work and asked his boss to help him track me down so he could return it. They spent the morning trying to figure out a way to get my number when they finally decided that the best route would be to call the police and see if they could get it to me. I was thrilled and immediately agreed to drive down and pick it up.
When I arrived, Kurt took me on a tour of the plant (they make some kind of special bolt for Boeing aircraft) and showed me what my credit cards and ID all look like under the blacklight, which is the way the authorities determine if they are authentic. Then he took me to meet Albert, a handsome young guy who looks to be in his early 20s.(He might be older, but he looks young.)
Anyway, I thanked Albert profusely and offered him a reward --- which he refused to accept under any circumstances. And again, I was surprised. I was happy to give it to him, the reward was well deserved and his returning my wallet saved me hours of trouble and money having to replace both my passport (don't ask) and my driver's license, not to mention the hell of dealing with credit cards and all the rest. His abject refusal to accept any money was unexpected and I was even more impressed. I just assumed that he would take it. Another chip of my hard cold cynicism broke off.
I spent a few more minutes chatting with Kurt, a very upbeat, friendly person with a huge smile and a contagious good humor and I discovered that he is mentoring Albert, helping him through school and guiding him in the workplace. (Albert, of course could have kept the wallet and never told Kurt about it, so Albert's moral compass is all his own.) Kurt is a very good person.
And I also discovered that Kurt is a Republican. (He has a mixed marriage - his wife is a Democrat.) We chatted a bit about travels, music, the thrill of Obama's election, the disillusionment of the Bush voter, the need for critical thinking, and then I took my leave. And I felt uplifted and happy in a way that I haven't felt in some time. It's not about the wallet which, after all, can be replaced. It's that I felt good about human beings again.
The burden of cynicism wears me down --- I don't like to believe that people are fundamentally dishonest and cruel. I needed this blast of decency from total strangers to shake me out of my doldrums. So, I'm immensely grateful to Kurt and Albert, both for renewing my faith in human nature and reminding me that political affiliation doesn't tell the whole story about anyone. It was a privilege to meet both of them.