Paying It Forward

Last week, I lost my cell phone. This is not just any cell phone. This is a titanium Blackberry Curve 8300 that receives my email and holds my address book, calendar, to do list, notes, and important information like user IDs and passwords for a slew of online accounts. Discovery of the loss made me ill, not to mention angry at my carelessness.

My first response was to call ATT Wireless where I learned I could disable the phone by going to their web site and clicking on the “Report a Lost/Stolen Phone” link. Next, I changed passwords for accounts I thought might be vulnerable.

Having moved through the initial stages of shock, anger, and denial, getting to acceptance seemed the most reasonable way to handle the situation. I called ATT Wireless again and explored replacement options. Not eligible for an upgrade and without loss/replacement insurance, the cost of a new phone came to nearly $500. Acting as if I were in a state of acceptance, I placed the order.

My home phone rang about 9:30 p.m., just as I was preparing to go to bed. “I’m looking for Dennis,” said a male voice.

“He’s speaking,” I said.

“This is Phil R—. I think I found your cell phone in front of Staples this afternoon. I hope you won’t mind, but I went through your address book looking for a clue to who the owner might be. That’s how I found your number.”

“That’s no problem,” I said. “I’m just happy to know it’s been found.”

“You must be a pretty important guy, cause there’s sure a lot of stuff in there!”

We negotiated a meeting. Fifteen minutes later, I met Phil in the parking lot of Mickey’s Pub, less than a mile from my house. “Wow! Thank you,” I said, as he handed me my phone. “I’m so happy to have it back. This represents quite a loss.”

The following morning, I thought I was probably still in shock when Phil handed me the phone and I had failed to offer him any kid of reward or recognition. After thinking about it all day, I called Phil (his phone number was still on my caller ID).

“This is Dennis, they guy whose cell phone you returned last night. I just wanted to thank you again and to tell you how grateful I am to have it back.”

“You’re welcome, Dennis,” he said. “I appreciate that.”

“Phil, it occurred to me that I really should have offered to do something for….”

“I really don’t want anything,” Phil said, cutting me off.

“I understand,” I said. “I would feel the same way if I had found your phone. It’s the right thing to do.”

“Right,” he said. “I’m fine with that.”

“Well,” I said, “I think one good turn deserves another. I believe in paying it forward and I’d like to do something for you. I can make a contribution to a charity….”

“I don’t want any credit.”

“I’m going to do something, though, and it may as well be something you’d like.”

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

“Okay. Thanks,” I said. “I’ll look forward to hearing from you.”

It’s been a week and I haven’t heard from Phil. Last night, talking with my neighbor, Cathy, I told her the story. “I have the perfect thing,” she said. “Safe Grad Night.”

“What a good idea,” I said. “I love that.” I went home and wrote the check.

0 thoughts on “Paying It Forward

  1. Pamela

    What would we do without these moments to restore our faith in man’s capacity to do good? It’s so easy to forget these days. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning in hot, roiling hate in this world…

  2. Martha Janell Dennis

    Your story is very uplifting. the California sun must be smile-ing down on you and the person who found your phone and called you. It is great to read something good about people being kind. Glad you got it back and it was
    good to hear that you are “Paying it Forward.”

  3. Dennis


    Indeed, the California sun smiles graciously on my life. I am happy to share its glow with you and others. Thanks for your friendly comment.