A wealthy developer scouting for a mall location loses his wallet with $8,000 in a poor neighborhood and is stunned when he receives a phone call late that night.
David Carrol loved what he did, but unfortunately what he did often cost people their homes. David was getting ready to close a deal that would lead to the razing of a block of a poor neighborhood close to the most affluent part of town.
David had been meeting with city councilmen, architects, and investors, and this would be his last visit before he signed on the contract. That afternoon he was making his final decision and he always decided with a walk-about in the neighborhood that would soon disappear.
David dismissed his chauffeur, got into his vintage 1958 Ferrari. He liked beauty, and he liked the style and maybe that was why he always targeted these poor, deteriorated old neighborhoods.
David told himself that he was beautifying the city, tearing down eyesores, and putting up high-rise office buildings or luxurious apartments, or, as in this particular case, a huge mall that would revitalize the area and create hundreds of jobs.
What David never allowed himself to think — or anyone to know — was that he had grown up in a miserable one-bedroom apartment in a neighborhood just like this one.
There is good in the world, if only you allow yourself to see it.
He knew all about rushing home straight before sundown because the streetlamps were constantly broken by the wild boys with their slings. He knew about the drunks in the stairwells of the dirty dusty buildings.
David knew about poverty first-hand, and he hated it, hated the sight and the sound and the smell of it — and that was why he dedicated a big slice of his considerable wealth to eradicate it from the map.
He parked his car and got out. He walked down the street and looked with disgust at the rusty cars parked by the sides of the road, some of them with flat tires, others with broken windshields.
He saw an old woman lean out of the window and scream at a boy who was leaning against the fence outside her building, with his radio blaring something that sounded like rap.
There were a few buildings with flowers growing on windowsills, the houses of people who hadn’t quite given up hope. At the corner of the main street was a mom-and-pop grocery store and David walked in and bought a soda.
The two old people who ran it were friendly and kind, and the customers looked poor but neatly dressed. Soon, David thought, they would all be moving on to a better place, a cleaner place.
He walked back to his car drinking his soda and threw the empty can into a nearby trash can. He fished out his car keys, got in, and drove away to his beautiful home. headed for the bedroom.
He headed to his bedroom and intended to take a shower to wash away the dirt and grime. When he fished in his pocket for his wallet, he realized it was gone. Had he left it in the car? David went down to the garage and searched the car. No wallet.
Where could he have lost it? He’d had it at the grocery store. David shook his head, disgusted with himself. He’d never find it! The wallet contained $8,000 in cash, his ID, and several credit cards.
If he knew how things worked in that neighborhood, by now whoever had found it would be selling the ID and credit cards, and pocketing the cash. It was then that his cell phone rang.
“Hello?” he said.
“Hi,” said a young voice. “Are you Mr. David Carrol?”
“Yes,” David said, wondering what this was all about.
“Listen, I have your wallet,” the voice said. “Come to Oak Street in half an hour, in front of the grocery store.” And with that, the caller hung up. David looked at the phone. Was this a trap? The person who’d found his phone might be out to rob him…
He didn’t fancy going back into that neighborhood at such a late hour. He’d grown up in a similar place and knew that this was when the rats came out to play — both the human and the rodent type. But he did want his wallet back…
He drove down the empty streets. Not a soul stirred. Was this a trap? David parked his car in front of the grocery store which had already closed, thick screens lowered over the windows. The only soul in sight was a little girl standing under one of the yellowy street lamps.
Could she be part of the trap? Sent to lure him out? The girl stepped forward and knocked on David’s car window. “Are you David?” she asked, and David reluctantly got out of the car, cell phone in hand, ready to call 911 at the least sign of trouble.
“I’m David,” he said. “Was it you who called me?” As he spoke he swiveled his head, watching the shadows. Were this girl’s father or brothers waiting to pounce and take his valuable car?
The girl who looked about nine years old smiled. “Yes, I have your wallet!” and she held up her hand. David took the wallet and opened it. Inside was the wad of cash, his credit cards, and his ID.
He couldn’t believe it! Was this for real? “Thank you!” David said. “Who are you, what’s your name?”
“I’m Meg,” the girl said, with a sweet smile. “I found your wallet.”
“Meg,” David smiled. “I’d like to give you a reward. Anything you like!”
“Oh, that’s OK!” Meg said. “I don’t need a reward, but it would be cool if you gave me $5 for my brother. I promised him $5 if he let me use his phone.”
David was stunned. This child was obviously poor and from a struggling family and the $8,000 would be a fortune for her — yet she had returned his wallet without taking a cent.
He looked around the street. “Where’s your house Meg?” he asked. “I’m walking you home.”
Meg led David to her house which was just across the street and introduced him to her grandmother, a sweet woman who immediately started fussing over him and fed him dinner.
Sitting at the table in that neat little kitchen, so rich in love, David realized that there was a lot more he could be doing to beautify the city. He could be helping these people, investing in these neighborhoods, instead of making many of the residents homeless.
The next day, David called the architects, the city councilmen, and the construction experts and set them a new challenge: Transform the old neighborhood, make it a dignified and safe place to live in again.
As for Meg, she, her grandmother, and her brother found themselves moving into a newly refurbished apartment. David gave the grandmother a job making food for his construction crew and set up a college trust fund for Meg.