The following story was submitted by a Fatherly reader. Opinions expressed in the story do not reflect the opinions of Fatherly as a publication. The fact that we’re printing the story does, however, reflect a belief that it is an interesting and worthwhile read.
I have a knack for finding things of value on the street. ATM and credit cards, paychecks, cash, social security cards, and pretty much anything you wouldn’t want to lose from your wallet. A few months ago, I found an actual wallet, complete with medical marijuana card and a picture of the guy’s young daughter. All totaled, I’ve probably found over $3,000 just laying around, literally. My wife thinks it’s my special superpower ⏤ finding stuff that people lose but don’t realize is missing. And I always return the items to the rightful owners or cancel the cards if I can’t track them down.
You can imagine my interest, then, when I came upon an opened, discarded box sitting in the gutter. At first, I just walked by. It was early in the morning and still dark out, and it took me a second to register what I had just seen. The box intrigued me though, and I walked back to look inside. There were three plastic bags individually wrapped with baby shampoo and what I thought was a picture frame of a young couple.
As I began to look at the items, I realized that the picture frame was an envelope with several pictures of a young couple. The wife was pregnant and extremely happy. As I looked at each picture, I could tell that the focus was on the wife’s “baby bump.” Fortunately, there was an invoice in the box which detailed the name and address of the sender, the recipient, and the recipient’s phone number. But why was it sitting in a gutter? How did it get there? Who loses a baby shower gift, anyway?
I packed up the box, determined to return the gift to the rightful owners. It was 5 a.m., though, and I wasn’t about to call the phone number quite yet. So when I got home I jumped on Google and searched for the names on the gift receipt. The husband I soon learned was a sergeant on the local police force, but I, unfortunately, couldn’t find much more. The wife, however, not only had a social media presence but her own blog, and I soon discovered that she was one of 11 children and an aunt to 18 nieces and nephews. Also, that she was infertile and unable to have children of her own. But what about the ‘baby bump.’ I was intrigued. Did something terrible happen to the baby that caused them to throw the gift away in anger or grief? No, maybe it was just stolen off their doorstep? My curiosity was getting the best of me.
As I continued to read it became more apparent how important it was for me to return the gift. Based on the blog, the couple had been having issues with infertility but the pictures I now possessed were evidence of a long-awaited bundle of joy on the way ⏤ a baby to bring a happy ending to the heartbreaking take I was reading online. I waited until the sun rose and immediately called the phone number. Nobody picked up. I left an awkward voicemail: “Hi, you don’t know me, but my name is Zack, and I found your baby shower gift on the street. Please call me back so I can return it to you.” Click.
I had no idea what to expect. Would they call me back? Would my message cause them pain, force them to relive a traumatic event they’d rather not replay. They probably think I’m some weirdo, I thought to myself. Or maybe the gift was stolen, and they’ll think I’m the thief, albeit one with a conscience. The husband was a cop. This could be a bad idea.
Minutes later, the husband called and thanked me for reaching out to him. It turned out, the baby shower gift had been sent by a friend, and it had been stolen from their residence. The thief discarded it once the contents showed no real monetary value. I breathed a sigh of relief. But that wasn’t the end of the drama. No sooner did I offer to bring him the gift then he said he couldn’t meet ⏤ his wife was in labor at that very moment. Stolen baby shower gifts were, understandably, not his top priority, and he would contact me as soon as they were home from the hospital. I wished him the best and hung up.
Four days passed without a text or a phone call, and I started to wonder what happened. So, I sent him a text asking if all went well, and if he’d like me to drop off the gift at his home. I received a response: Hey Zack, there were some complications at the hospital so not sure when we will be home…” “Complications?” I thought, “Something must have happened to their baby.” I knew what it was like to live through “complications,” as my wife had experienced them with the birth of our daughter. I sent another text and wrote that I’d be praying for him and his family.
A few more days went by without a word. And even though I didn’t know this couple at all, and had barely spoken with the husband, I felt an overwhelming sense of concern for them. Was their long-awaited bundle of joy okay? How was the father holding up? Maybe I should send them a baby shower gift myself since they were first-time parents? All these questions swirled through my mind.
Finally, the husband texted me saying that he was home, and we arranged to meet at a local police department. Figure if you’re going to meet a complete stranger who’s in possession of some intimate photos of your wife, best keep it in a public place with law enforcement around. I was excited to meet “Mike” and find out what had happened to the baby.
Thankfully, both his son and wife were healthy. She had developed pre-eclampsia while giving birth and the medical staff had exacerbated the problem by giving her the wrong medication. All was well though. We talked for a bit and he thanked me as I handed over the box. We laughed a bit about fatherhood and it was time to go.
As we shook hands and parted ways, I thought about all the valuables I’d found over the years and how this might have been the best gift I’ve ever returned.
Zachery Roman is a married dad of two daughters who lives in Los Angeles. He spends his days writing stories for people to enjoy.