A Man With Integrity

My mother has been visiting us for two months, and today is her scheduled flight home.  We spent the morning packing and enjoying the sunshine, and then she and I went to lunch and did some shopping.

She decided to leave her purse at home, as we’d had to pack several items into it to save weight in her suitcase.  She did take her wallet, though, which was a cause of concern for me.  See,  Mom has memory issues.  Lots of ’em.  So I was worried that she’d  forget it somewhere.

We’d been to Target, and she put her red wallet under my purse in the red cart (yeah).  Only I’d bought something.  As we walked out of the store I left the cart right outside the doors, grabbed my purse and bag and we walked to the car.  I didn’t give her wallet a thought.  Neither, apparently, did she.

We drove to Office Depot so we could print her boarding pass (still no working printer in my house), and as we pulled into the parking lot she suddenly realized she’d lost her wallet (Yes, you were smarter than me and saw that coming.  Whaddya want – a medal or a chest to pin it on?).

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh crap.  We’re supposed to leave to take her to the airport in 90 minutes!  If we don’t find her wallet that means we don’t have her drivers license.  No drivers license, no board plane.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh CRAP!

We looked all over the car, then I drove back to Target.  We looked in all of the carts in the parking lot, and we asked at customer service.  I have to say that the Target employees  were AWESOME.  Three employees helped check carts.  The security guard reviewed videotape to see if we could tell which customer took our cart.   I was walking around the store asking women to lift their purse (or their child) so I could see if there was a red wallet underneath, in their red cart.

Mom was paralyzed with self-loathing and dread.  I called Husband and asked him to meet us so he could get the thumb drive and go print the boarding pass, in hopes we’d find the wallet.  Fun stuff.

A half hour later, while we waited for the security guard to look for the person he saw on the videotape, Mom gets a call from a friend.  Mom is telling her she can’t talk, but the friend says, “No!  Someone found your wallet and called me!”

Mom was too shaken to talk, so I talked to her.  A man said “his nephew” found the wallet, and he’d called 3 or 4 people before he’d found this particular friend, who knew Mom’s cell phone number.  I got the guy’s name and phone number and called him.  He was friendly, mentioned that he saw Mom was from Connecticut and he was from Massachusetts, and told us, too, about “the nephew”.  I thanked him, then explained that we had to leave shortly to take Mom to the  airport.  Could we come pick it up?  He agreed to meet us, gave us his address.

As Mom and I drove over there I told her not to count on her money being there.  After all, the nephew (if there truly was one) did not walk back into Target and turn the wallet in to the employees there.  He brought it home.  That right there made me suspect that the money – and perhaps the credit cards – would be gone.  After all, he could always claim that the money was gone when he found the wallet.

But as long as her drivers license was there, we would be happy.  We’d just consider the lost money a “stupid tax”.  I know I’ve paid plenty of  money in stupid tax over the years myself!

The man met us at the entrance to his apartment complex, handed over the wallet and said, “This is exactly how my nephew gave me the wallet.  Was there money in there?”

I looked through the wallet, noticed that the license and credit cards were there but the money was missing,  and told him yes, there’d been money.  Mom said she’d had about $60 (though we later realized that she only had $40).   He gets on his phone, calls the nephew and tells him to give back the money.

At this point Mom and I are so relieved that she can get on the plane that I’m about to thank the guy profusely and just leave, but he tells me to wait.  He asks me to follow him to his apartment; he’d get the money from his wife and they’d get it back from the nephew.

Uh huh.  I am still skeptical at this point.  What’s he up to? Is this guy trying to set me up?  I reluctantly follow him, and I call Husband.  I tell him what’s happening, and I tell him that I’d rather he stay on the phone with me “just in case.”  He tells me not to get out of the car or go into the guy’s apartment.  Well, duh!

A few minutes later, Husband still on the phone, the guy emerges from his apartment, walks over to the car and hands my mother a wad of cash.  He says, “My nephew had this, and he says that’s all that was in the wallet.”

Personally, I don’t care if it’s $4 or $40.  I’m completely shocked, and  thrilled, and in awe of this man.

Integrity.

He chose to:

1.  Contact us – taking several phone calls to do so;

2.  Meet us;

3.  Believe us about the money;

4.  Be willing to give it to us out of his own pocket, if necessary;

5.  Demand that his nephew own up.

And all of it really had nothing to do with us.  Helping us was a by-product.  This guy couldn’t have done anything else.  Because integrity, like fidelity,  is personal.  It’s about him, not us.  His values.  His beliefs.

I was near tears as we thanked him, said G-d bless you, and drove away.  Despite all of the politicians and Tiger Woods’ and Kardashians, we need to remember that there are still plenty of people who do have integrity in this small community we call the world.

I’d say that nephew, and all of the other people in his life, are even luckier than we were today.

Safe travels, Mom.

Hey parents of Autistic, Asperger’s and other ASD kids! Some of us parents of typical kids get it!

And we need to help others get it, too.

This is in response to this post.  Which generated this post.

Hi Connie,

I wanted you to know that I didn’t judge your worthiness as a mother or a human being by your post.  I am the Mom of a typical kid, and I think if not for friends that I have whose children are on the autism spectrum I may have taken the situation the same way you did.  After all, that type of situation DOES happen with typical kids, too.

The behavior the child exhibited IS very much an indicator of a child on the spectrum, but perhaps you didn’t know that.  I get that.  It happens.

Yes, a lot of angry Moms with kids on the spectrum slammed you about the post.  And I think several sane Moms of kids on the spectrum responded without the vitriol, but trying to inform.  And, yes, sometimes even the sane Moms get frustrated.

I am not a Yahoo.   I am not looking to attack or disparage you.   I am also not a mom of a child on the spectrum.

I am 45 years old, and have made  comments about and had plenty of strong opinions about my perception of unacceptable and/or disruptive behavior by children, and the apparent lack of parenting skills of others.

But as I’ve gotten older, and as I’ve learned more about autism and other spectrum disorders (a dear friend  has a child with Asperger’s), I’ve thought back on some of those incidents and had V-8 moments.  “Aha!  THAT’S probably what was happening.  That child likely was on the spectrum!”  I’ve even thought back to kids I knew in elementary, middle and high school that were likely un-diagnosed high functioning Aspie or Autistic, and had terrible times trying to get through school.  Although I was never out and out cruel to any of those kids, I did tend to ignore them…

And as I’ve watched my friend parent her child, and read her blog and the blogs of other ASD parents, I’ve also come to understand that these kids cannot be parented the same way.  And I’ve seen and read about their struggle to cope not only with their child’s behavior, but the nasty looks and comments from other adults and children who don’t know and  don’t understand that, “In just a minute,” needs to be said whether it’s going to be just a minute or an hour.  They just don’t understand  what they’re looking at.  And the parents are often too afraid or tired or focused on the child to offer an explanation to witnesses.  Sometimes explanations really help, and sometimes they really don’t.

People have opinions and  make judgments.  It’s what humans do.  It’s not that these people are bad or evil, or even necessarily ridiculously judgmental.  They are just unaware.

I do get it now, but it took me almost 45 years.  I have become the Mom that offers an encouraging smile to caregivers like that grandmother, and when other Moms start talking about an apparently misbehaving or disruptive child I’m the one that says, “Well, perhaps that child is on the Autism Spectrum, and the parent and the child are doing the best they can today.”

And even if I’m wrong, so what?

What am I hoping for by writing you?

First, that you’ll know that not everyone is making a snap judgment about your worthiness by this post.  You’re human.  It was frustrating.  I get it.

Second, that the next time you run into a child with similar behaviors you’ll consider that they may, indeed, be on the spectrum, and perhaps offer a smile of encouragement to the child and  the caretaker.

Lastly, that you’ll join me in becoming a Mom who will offer another possible explanation for a disruptive child’s behavior so that other unaware  Moms can look at another possibility, too.

Best of luck,

BeThisWay

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