Letter In A Wallet From Long Time Ago

As I walked home one freezing day, I stumbled on a wallet someone had lost in the street. I picked it up and looked inside to find some identification so I could call the owner. But the wallet contained only three dollars and a crumpled letter that looked as if it had been in there for years.

tattered old wallet

The envelope was worn and the only thing that was legible on it was the return address. I started to open the letter, hoping to find some clue. Then I saw the dateline—1936. The letter had been written over eighty years ago.

It was written in a beautiful feminine handwriting on powder blue stationery with a little flower in the left-hand corner. It was a “Dear John” letter that told the recipient, whose name appeared to be Michael, that the writer could not see him any more because her mother forbade it. Even so, she wrote that she would always love him. It was signed, Hannah.

It was a beautiful letter, but there was no way except for the name Michael, that the owner could be identified. Maybe if I called information, the operator could find a phone listing for the address on the envelope.

“Operator,” I began, “this is an unusual request. I’m trying to find the owner of a wallet that I found. Is there anyway you can tell me if there is a phone number for an address that was on an envelope in the wallet?”

She suggested I speak with her supervisor, who hesitated for a moment then said, “Well, there is a phone listing at that address, but I can’t give you the number.”

She said, as a courtesy, she would call that number, explain my story and would ask them if they wanted her to connect me. I waited a few minutes and then she was back on the line. “I have a party who will speak with you.”

I asked the woman on the other end of the line if she knew anyone by the name of Hannah. She gasped, “Oh! We bought this house from a family who had a daughter named Hannah. But that was 30 years ago!”

“Would you know where that family could be located now?” I asked.

“I remember that Hannah had to place her mother in a nursing home some years ago,” the woman said. “Maybe if you got in touch with them they might be able to track down the daughter.”

She gave me the name of the nursing home and I called the number. They told me the old lady had passed away some years ago but they did have a phone number for where they thought the daughter might be living. I thanked them and phoned. The woman who answered explained that Hannah herself was now living in a nursing home.

nursing home

This whole thing was stupid, I thought to myself. Why was I making such a big deal over finding the owner of a wallet that had only three dollars and a letter that was almost 60 years old?

Nevertheless, I called the nursing home in which Hannah was supposed to be living and the man who answered the phone told me, “Yes, Hannah is staying with us. ”

Even though it was already 10 p.m., I asked if I could come by to see her.

“Well,” he said hesitatingly, “if you want to take a chance, she might be in the day room watching television.”

I thanked him and drove over to the nursing home. The night nurse and a guard greeted me at the door. We went up to the third floor of the large building. In the day room, the nurse introduced me to Hannah.

She was a sweet, silver-haired old timer with a warm smile and a twinkle in her eye. I told her about finding the wallet and showed her the letter. The second she saw the powder blue envelope with that little flower on the left, she took a deep breath and said, “Young man, this letter was the last contact I ever had with Michael.”

She looked away for a moment deep in thought and then said Softly, “I loved him very much. But I was only 16 at the time and my mother felt I was too young. Oh, he was so handsome. He looked like Sean Connery, the actor.”

“Yes,” she continued. “Michael Goldstein was a wonderful person. If you should find him, tell him I think of him often. And,” she hesitated for a moment, almost biting her lip, “tell him I still love him. You know,” she said smiling as tears began to well up in her eyes, “I never did marry. I guess no one ever matched up to Michael…”

I thanked Hannah and said goodbye. I took the elevator to the first floor and as I stood by the door, the guard there asked, “Was the old lady able to help you?”

I told him she had given me a lead. “At least I have a last name. But I think I’ll let it go for a while. I spent almost the whole day trying to find the owner of this wallet.”

I had taken out the wallet, which was a simple brown leather case with red lacing on the side. When the guard saw it, he said, “Hey, wait a minute! That’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere with that bright red lacing. He’s always losing that wallet. I must have found it in the halls at least three times.”

“Who’s Mr. Goldstein?” I asked as my hand began to shake.

“He’s one of the old timers on the 8th floor. That’s Mike Goldstein’s wallet for sure. He must have lost it on one of his walks.” I thanked the guard and quickly ran back to the nurse’s office. I told her what the guard had said. We went back to the elevator and got on. I prayed that Mr. Goldstein would be up.

walkers in nursing home

On the eighth floor, the floor nurse said, “I think he’s still in the day room. He likes to read at night. He’s a darling old man.”

We went to the only room that had any lights on and there was a man reading a book. The nurse went over to him and asked if he had lost his wallet. Mr. Goldstein looked up with surprise, put his hand in his back pocket and said, “Oh, it is missing!”

“This kind gentleman found a wallet and we wondered if it could be yours?”

I handed Mr. Goldstein the wallet and the second he saw it, he smiled with relief and said, “Yes, that’s it! It must have dropped out of my pocket this afternoon. I want to give you a reward.”

“No, thank you,” I said. “But I have to tell you something. I read the letter in the hope of finding out who owned the wallet.”

The smile on his face suddenly disappeared. “You read that letter?”

“Not only did I read it, I think I know where Hannah is.”

He suddenly grew pale. “Hannah? You know where she is? How is she? Is she still as pretty as she was? Please, please tell me,” he begged.

“She’s fine…just as pretty as when you knew her.” I said softly.

The old man smiled with anticipation and asked, “Could you tell me where she is? I want to call her tomorrow.” He grabbed my hand and said, “You know something, mister, I was so in love with that girl that when that letter came, my life literally ended. I never married. I guess I’ve always loved her.”

“Mr. Goldstein,” I said, “Come with me.”

We took the elevator down to the third floor. The hallways were darkened and only one or two little night-lights lit our way to the day room where Hannah was sitting alone watching the television. The nurse walked over to her.

“Hannah,” she said softly, pointing to Michael, who was waiting with me in the doorway. “Do you know this man?”

She adjusted her glasses, looked for a moment, but didn’t say a word.

Michael said softly, almost in a whisper, “Hannah, it’s Michael. Do you remember me?”

She gasped, “Michael! I don’t believe it! Michael! It’s you! My Michael!”

elderly couple

He walked slowly towards her and they embraced. The nurse and I left with tears streaming down our faces.

“See,” I said. “See how the Good Lord works! If it’s meant to be, it will be.”

About three weeks later I got a call at my office from the nursing home. “Can you break away on Sunday to attend a wedding? Michael and Hannah are going to tie the knot!”

It was a beautiful wedding with all the people at the nursing home dressed up to join in the celebration. Hannah wore a light beige dress and looked beautiful. Michael wore a dark blue suit and stood tall.

They made me their best man. The hospital gave them their own room and if you ever wanted to see a 76-year-old bride and a 79-year-old groom acting like two teenagers, you had to see this couple.

A perfect ending for a love affair that had lasted nearly 60 years.


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Encountering Unconditional Love at McDonald’s

I am a mother of three children and have recently completed my college degree.

The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities of unconditional generosity that I wish every human being would be graced with. Her last project of the term was called “Smile.”

The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions. I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway, so, I thought, his would be a piece of cake, literally.

How My Adventure Began

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald’s one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special play time with our son.

fast food burger

We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did.

I did not move an inch, because an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved. As I turned around I smelled a horrible “dirty body” scent, and standing there behind me were two penniless homeless men.

As I looked down at the short gentleman who was closer to me, I noticed he was “smiling.” His beautiful sky blue eyes were sparkling as he searched for unconditional love.

He said, “Good day” as he counted the few coins he had been clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally deficient and the blue eyed gentleman was his salvation.

two homeless men

The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted. He said, “Coffee is all miss” because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).

My Unexpected Response

Then I really felt it – the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray.

I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue eyed gentleman’s cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, “Thank you.”

I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, “I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.” I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, “That is why God gave you to me, Honey. To give me hope.”

We held hands for a moment and at that time we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give unconditional love. We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God’s sweet love.

I Hand In My Project

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in “my project” and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, “Can I share this?”

I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we, as human beings and being part of God, share this need to heal people and be healed.

In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald’s, my husband, son, instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.

unconditional acceptance

I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: unconditional love and acceptance. Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to:

Love people and use things;
not love things and use people

Sand Hill Girl

by Angela Belcher Epps

“I escaped the capacity to feel bitterness, sulk, resign myself to the notion of failure or buckle in the face of hardship. In the wildness of rural living, I became equal to all things.’

When Mona, Julie and I were young, we would race to the north side of my house, lift the hems of our buttery-soft cotton dresses and pee in unison. We made deep, specific holes in the sand that vanished in a remarkably short span of time. We knew a freedom, us girls, that defied reason. We were strong, sturdy-limbed, all the same height but with different shades of brown skin, different grades of kinky hair and temperaments as different as a sun shower, a hurricane and a blizzard.

We shared secrets whispered between cupped hands into unwashed ears. We cooked savory stews of wood chips, weeds and water pumped from the ground. We broke the harmony of lazy summer days by fighting and wrestling, outrunning the boys, threatening with BB guns and occasionally firing an intentional “accidental” shot. We smoked the butts of my grandfather’s Camels beneath our shelter and jumped from low rooftops, landing on our feet. We frequently fell skidding across the earth, leaving behind fragments of skin and exposing bloodied flesh.

Mona, Julie and I were a small band among a neighborhood army, a part of the larger community, but so much an entity unto ourselves. I loved them fiercely. I loved them because in their able little bodies I saw reflections of myself–sassy, capable, vicious and enterprising. We knew everything. We were everything. We could do anything. We took seven cents and walked down long, sandy roads to buy Popsicles in the cool, dank daytime barrenness of Buddy Cherry’s juke joint. We handed my blind cousin our coins and marveled at his ability to count money without the assistance of eyes. We walked back satisfied and happy with echoes of jukebox music trailing behind us, while cool grape syrup dripped down filthy fingers that we licked clean.

We dipped dirt like snuff, then chewed and swallowed the grit. We ate evergreen leaves and stuck our tongues into the terminals of nine-volt Eveready batteries. We caught bumblebees in jars and stalked dragonflies, catching them by the tail and entertaining them until their wings cracked and disintegrated. We played running, chasing, screaming games in the dark–ending our days only when mosquitoes swarmed our heads too thickly to ignore.

At the age of 10, we went our separate ways–Mona and I heading North to live with our respective mothers after beginning our lives in the care of grandparents. Julie was left behind, I expect suffering a loneliness that I know I felt without the company of my small clan. These girls–my first best friends–gave me a sense of all that was possible in the world. In our daring to seize every bit of drama and mirth from each day was born a passion for living that did not diminish. For as I grew into a charming and intelligent preadolescent, a brooding and rebellious teenager, and a searching and tempestuous young woman, a tenacious little spirit did push-ups in the comers of my psyche, preparing to escort me through all the challenges to be faced as a full-grown woman.

No dainty, helpless female was I. In the wildness of rural living, I became equal to all things. I escaped the capacity to feel bitterness, sulk, resign myself to the notion of failure or buckle in the face of impending hardship. The dirt, the sweat, the glee and all that I knew in those freewheeling days coalesced into a potent tonic for my soul, forever reminding me that I am tough. I am a Sand Hill girl.

It’s been decades since I’ve seen Mona or Julie. I know that they both married and had children. Mona stayed up North while Julie remained in our hometown. I’ve seen each of them only once since adulthood. Looking back, I can say that our brief reunions were memorable. Our hugs were wide and engulfing. Our eyes glinted, reflecting the bond of excitement that I believe is only created among early playmates. My heart literally flailed with expectancy. Though we shared only minutes, there was that edge-of-the-seat feeling as we spoke, that what-happened-next urgency in our questions. I knew that whatever good or bad they’d encountered was weathered with a heartiness, and that the gathering of tales along the way would more than likely include episodes not meant for the faint of heart.

In the different stages of my life, I, too, have run into some rough terrain. I’ve watched love ebb in barely perceptible spasms, suffered the disappointing agony of betrayal and endured the self-deprecating guilt of breaking someone’s heart. I’ve lain awake for nights on end, searching for answers, praying for clarity, mentally charting the course toward healthier relationships, more fulfilling jobs, a simpler life. At every juncture, a sturdy, prepubescent angel has finally risen, stood with hands on hips and reminded me that I have experience with landing on my feet from great heights. She whispers that no matter what the outcome might be, I have always found pleasure in small but remarkable things. She assures me that each day I am reborn, and one morning I’ll awaken to find that any trouble that has found its way into my life will have disappeared–just like the holes made by three little Sand Hill girls peeing in unison at the side of the house.

by Angela Belcher Epps, Essence