There is a lot of bad news in the newspapers and on TV, and that’s probably why people like good news so much. Readers and viewers tend to think the news media thrives on bad news, and that may be true to some extent, but the media are equally interested — maybe even more so — in stories that illustrate more positive examples of the human spirit. This story — about a young man who returned an old lady’s purse — is one of those. (By the way, the story doesn’t mention this, but this was a young black man and an elderly white lady. The photo that accompanied the story made this fact clear. This was a story angle that was not lost on the newspaper, the St. Petersburg TIMES).
By ARTHUR FREDERICK
It wasn’t the $28 in her wallet that Jacqueline Wendt thought of when she realized she had left her purse in a shopping cart at Albertson’s at the Largo Mall. She thought of the picture of her husband, Bill, who died last March.
“I never would have gotten that back because I don’t have the negative,” said Mrs. Wendt, 66, of Largo. “Money you can always get someplace. But you can’t replace those pictures, not when the people are gone.”
Mrs. Wendt needn’t have worried. Her purse, sitting in a shopping cart in Albertsons parking lot, was found by Thomas Carey, a 14-year-old who believes strongly you shouldn’t keep things that don’t belong to you.
“It wasn’t mine, and if it’s not mine I’m not going to take it,” said Thomas, a freshman honor student at Seminole High School. “My mom taught me that.”
Thomas was at the mall with his mother, Jeannette Carey, when he noticed Mrs. Wendt’s purse in the shopping cart. He fished it out and brought it to his mother’s car. Mother and son found Mrs. Wendt’s driver’s license and took a good look at the picture. Then Thomas went into the store to search while his mother stayed in the car with the purse.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Wendt was a few miles away at Island in the Sun Mobile Home Park, unloading her groceries.
“I went home and went to take my groceries out of the car,” she said. “That’s when I noticed my purse wasn’t there.”
Mrs. Wendt raced back to the shopping center. Her shopping cart was still where she had left it, but the purse was gone.
“I parked and went into the store and asked if they had seen my purse and they said no,” Mrs. Wendt said. “I went back out and a lady in the parking lot called me over. I thought she was having trouble with her car, but she reached in the window and pulled out my purse. We hugged and kissed and cried. She said she wished I could meet her son, and I told her I’d just wait right there for him.”
Meanwhile, Thomas was searching Albertsons for the woman in the driver’s license picture. When he walked out, Thomas got caught up in an emotional scene he hadn’t expected.
“I hugged and kissed him,” Mrs. Wendt said.
“I felt pretty good,” Thomas said.
Thomas Petit, assistant principal at Seminole High School, said a three-year-old program at the school tries to encourage students to return lost items they find.
“When kids find something, they turn it in, and we call them Good Deed Students and we announce it over the intercom,” Petit said. “The kids really feel good about it and we get a lot of things returned. We’ve had as much as $100 in cash, jackets, hats, notebooks – just about anything a kid would lose.”
Thomas will be a Seminole High School Good Deed Student today for returning Mrs. Wendt’s purse.
Jacqueline Wendt understood why everyone was making a fuss over Thomas, even if he didn’t.
“He hardly said anything, just `Oh, it was nothing,’ things like that,” she said. “But I think it was just great.”