If anyone needs a reminder that it’s good to do something for others, and all the more when your only profit is that you did the right thing, look no further than the example set by Glen James last Saturday. James, who has been homeless for five years and is in his mid-50s, found a bag containing the equivalent of $42,000 at a Boston area shopping mall — and returned it.
But that’s just part of the story.
After hearing about James’s good deed, Ethan Whittington, who is from Midlothian, Virginia, and has never been to Boston, started a fund for James at www.gofundme.com/4by2as. As of this posting, more than $100,000 has been donated. One good deed does deserve another!
James says that he had worked for 13 years as a file clerk at a courthouse until he was fired. Due to having Meniere’s disease, an inner-ear disorder that causes dizzy spells, he did not find another job. He has family but, not wanting to “burden” them, has been living in a homeless shelter and receiving the “blessing” of food stamps. James panhandles for money for laundry, transportation and assorted “odds and ends.”
This past Saturday, James was sitting under the canopy of a T.J. Maxx store when he noticed a young man with a big black bag sitting on an overturned cart. James became absorbed in reading a letter. When he looked up again, the young man was gone but the black bag was still there — and when James inspected it, he found that it contained $2,400 in cash, nearly $40,000 in travelers checks, a passport and other documents.
James went to the police with the bag, whose owner, a student visiting from China, was soon found. The student had mentioned to an employee from Best Buy that he had lost a bag containing a large sum of money.
On Monday, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis presented James with a citation in which he praised his “extraordinary show of character and honesty.” James, who has a stutter, said little; he “smiled nervously and appeared somewhat overwhelmed,” says the Boston Globe. Asked about how he felt to return such a large sum of money, James laughed and said he felt “Very, very good.” He also thanked all the people who have given him spare change over the years.
In a statement he wrote out for the police, James explained a little more about his decision to return the money:
“Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money I found.
“I am extremely religious and God has always very well looked after me.
“I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank everyone – every pedestrian stranger – who has given me spare change. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Whittington initially set the initial fundraising goal of $50,000 for the “Boston Homeless Man Reward” campaign. As word of James’ good deed spread, the amount rose and rose to almost $100,000; Whittington changed the target amount to $250,000.
As he stepped into a police cruiser to take him back to the shelter, James was asked if there was “anything he would like, anything at all.” His response: “No war.”
Take a look at any news website and you’ll most likely get the sense that no amount of money can buy that (but can buy too many firearms). James’s return of the Chinese student’s bag reminds us that it doesn’t have to cost anything to make the world a better, kinder place — and that those who we may be inclined to think are most in need can help in unexpected ways.
Photo from Thinkstock
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