The Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday I lost my wallet. By late morning, having conducted repeated searches of the same pockets and all the rest, I decided that it was time to call the bank. My money was safe and that was a relief, but where was my velvet purse with its white beaded stitching? – a gift from a friend in America.

In 1992, we were living in Switzerland. Our daughter Polly, who was 3 years old at the time, had a favourite bear who was her constant companion. At the English Church Christmas Bazaar in Bern that year, she lost him. Anticipating weeks of tears and sleepless nights, I put a small ad in the newspaper offering a reward to anyone who found him. Polly remained strangely calm, explaining that Bear had gone to the North Pole to help Father Christmas. He’ll be back in the New Year, she assured us.

Sure enough, in early February, a parcel arrived and there was Bear. An accompanying note explained that he had been discovered behind a filing cabinet in the church office. The kind woman who returned him to us recalled reading about the little girl who had lost her bear.  She said she’d cut out the piece and pinned it to the notice board in the office.

We were over the moon. Polly was delighted too, although her reaction was more muted. I told you he’d be back she said.

Polly has a little girl of her own now and Bear, although quite elderly, still lives in the nursery alongside several newer, fluffier versions of himself.

I was getting ready to go to bed last night when there was a knock at the front door. A woman I had never seen before handed me my wallet. She told me that she had found it on the street on her way to work. She apologized for not returning it earlier but explained that she had only just come off her shift.