I’d just returned to the office from jury duty on Monday when I got word that our company’s stolen truck had been located. It had been stolen from the alley behind our building a week before. The police had located the truck about 50 miles north, in Greenville, SC. They arrested and charged the man who was found in possession of the truck and hauled him to jail. The truck was hauled to an impound lot several miles south. On Tuesday, I sent a co-worker to retrieve the truck from impound. A few hours and $150 later, the truck was back in the alley, where it had disappeared from just a week before. But when the truck arrived home, everything that had been inside before was gone. As I rummaged through, all I found were a few paper coffee cups, beer cans, a duffle bag I didn’t recognize, and a stench like no other I’d ever smelled in my entire life. But that was not all. There was also an old, rusty box whose lid would not quite close anymore. I flipped open the box and quickly discovered that what was inside was something special: war time letters from a wife to her husband and from that same woman to her brother. Some were still nestled in their envelopes, stamps still affixed. Others were loose and written on paper that had become thin and fragile; nearly transparent. My heart ached as I read of the woman’s dying father and her hopes to get her brother home from war before their father died. As heartrending as the letters were, in that moment I wished I had something so special from my family and if I had how shattered I would be to lose it. So for hours I dug through the box and began crafting the best picture I could of this family. Along with a photograph of the box, I posted what little I knew of the Griffin family to Facebook, asked for help and let fate take over. Since then, these are the three things I have learned.
Do not read the comments
When I posted my original plea for help on Tuesday, I changed my default privacy setting from “friends” to “public.” My intention was always to spread the plea as far as I possibly could and my lowly friend count of 424 wasn’t going to get the job done. I needed my friends to share with their friends and then their friends to share with friends in order to get any traction whatsoever. Only two hours later, the post had been shared nearly 200 times and the local Fox affiliate had reached out with an interest in running the story. The reporter asked a few questions and before I knew it an article was posted to their website and linked on their Facebook page. And then the comments started rolling in:
“Something doesn’t make sense.” “This is questionable.” “You should let law enforcement handle this.”
And I want to respond. I want to respond to each and every one to explain myself. So I do and I try but it’s not good enough. People still question with a distrust that’s unsettling. Actually, it’s infuriating. But then I realize that some people are just miserable and do not believe that goodness still exists in this world, which brings me to my next point
People do not believe good intentions exist
From the comments questioning my story and my integrity to the private messages telling me that I had no business handing such as task, it is apparent to me that the benefit of the doubt is rare these days. And even after my public plea for help, people still took the time to write me and say things like “you need to turn this over to the family.”
Did you read my original post? Where I asked for help? I never had any intentions of keeping the box for myself and if I had, I certainly would not have put myself out there, asking for help from perfect strangers. My intention was always to get the box home and in the hands of its rightful owner. My intentions are pure. Why is it so hard for some people to believe that? Have we really become so jaded that we believe there are no people left out there who simply want to do something good?
Not me. I don’t believe that and this week has been the perfect example of that.
People are inherently good
Aside from the naysayers and the skeptics and the jaded, there is a larger group of people who this week reinforced my longstanding belief that people are inherently good. People want to help. People want to make a difference. People want fairytales and happy endings. People want love and friendship and hope. And I am happy to say that those are the people, who by a large majority, I met this week (even if only through Facebook). Over the last two days, I have had hundreds of messages from people offering help. Most had already done research, taking the time to drop a line and let me know what they’d found. Others would shoot me ideas on where to look and who to call. One lady, a complete stranger, loaded up in her car on Wednesday, drove to her local library, and dug up obituaries for me so that I could follow-up on the names included in them. I have never met this woman in my entire life, but she took her car and used her gasoline and took time from her day to help me. There were also many, many genealogists who by trade are paid to track down this sort of information yet they did it for me – for this family – for nothing. They gave their talents and expected absolutely nothing in return, save for the hope of a happy ending. There were those people who didn’t offer any information or research at all but instead sent me messages of prayer and of thanks. And then there were the people who shared my plea. As I sit here this very moment, there are 5,936 of you – 5,936 of you who stopped what you were doing, read my post, and believed that by sharing you could make a difference. There were people from South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Oregon, New Mexico, Virginia, Ohio, and Minnesota. They came from all over, at all times of the day and the night, and they were good. Inherently good!
Tonight, the box sits in the safety of an evidence locker at the local police station, for the sake of posterity. But that does not mean we will stop looking. Both a cousin and a niece (by marriage) have been identified. Still, we wait to see if we can put in back into the hands from which it was presumably taken. Regardless of that search, however, the box will end up in the hands of family. And know that because of all of you this story will get its happy ending.