37: The Cell Phone

37: The Cell Phone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America

The Cell Phone

True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost.

~Arthur Ashe

My husband and I were having a good night. We had just seen a comedy, emptied an entire large bucket of popcorn and a bag of M&Ms, and laughed like two carefree kids. As we crossed the parking lot and contemplated our next high caloric activity, I noticed something on the asphalt.

“Oh, wait!” I said, and broke free from his hand. “What’s that?”

“Looks like a wallet,” he said, jangling his car keys and watching as I inspected it.

“Nope. It’s a cell phone.” But, not just any cell phone — it was the most expensive model on the market. When I opened the case, the phone was locked, so I couldn’t scroll through the contacts to find the owner.

“You want to leave it at the ticket booth?” he asked.

“Are you kidding? No way! I’d rather keep it safe and find the owner myself.”

As we walked to our car, my husband was grumbling about the responsibility I was taking on. But I had seen the picture on the screen, and it was of a young soldier — probably the owner’s daughter. I wanted to reunite this phone with its owner.

Once we settled in and drove off, the cell phone vibrated. When I opened the case, the smiling soldier background lit up again. It was an incoming text, but I couldn’t respond because the phone was locked.

Instead of driving straight home, we went to a nearby gas station to fill up, which was clearly my husband’s way of killing time. He really wanted me to get rid of this phone. And then it happened. The phone rang, the screen said “Home” was calling, and I would finally find the owner.

“Helllooooo! I have your phone!” I said happily, secretly excited to give someone the news that a Good Samaritan had found his phone.

The gentleman on the other end of the line was ecstatic and thanked me for finding his phone. He asked if we would return to the movie theater, where he would meet us. I agreed, and he thanked me repeatedly. With a light heart, I ended the call.

“I told you it was the father of a soldier,” I said triumphantly. I smiled to myself as we turned out of the gas station’s parking lot and headed back toward the theater. Getting an idea, I reached into my purse and found a scrap of paper. On it, I scribbled the sentence “God bless your soldier” and drew a heart beside it. I slipped the note inside the cell phone case.

Back at the theater, we found a big, burly man waiting for us. “Thank you so much,” he said with relief when I approached. “I thought I was going to have to turn it off, cancel it, the whole thing!”

My heart swelled with joy from making him so happy. Privately, I couldn’t wait for him to read my little blessing for his soldier.

“It’s my pleasure,” I said, and then watched as the man waved happily and fairly skipped to his own car. He thanked me at least three more times.

The man drove in one direction and we drove in the other. “You can tell he’s a good person,” my husband said as we headed toward the freeway, his tone suggesting that he’d surrendered to the rightness of what we’d just done.

“Yes,” I said sighing, allowing myself to feel good as I remembered the man’s grateful smile. I don’t know what it is about doing a good deed, but the person doing the deed always seems to feel even better than the beneficiary.

We hadn’t driven four blocks when we heard a horn blaring. I pressed the button to roll down my window, and it was the same man, speeding to catch up with us. He had his window down, too.

“Thank you so much for your note!” he hollered as he drove alongside our truck.

I absolutely beamed. “Oh, you are so welcome!” I yelled back, giving him my best Forrest Gump wave.

If happiness manifested itself as helium, I’d have floated right out the window.

He continued. “I appreciate it so much! The soldier is my daughter,” he yelled out his window. “She died October 1st, so thank you so much for that message!”

In that instant, my helium was gone. All the previous euphoric feelings I experienced morphed into unspeakable grief and love for a total stranger.

“I am so sorry,” I yelled back, my smile gone, my eyes filling with tears. It had been just six months for him.

“Thank you! She was twenty! Thank you!” He waved, still smiling, and drove off.

I stared out the window until my husband quietly pushed the button to close it from the driver’s side. We were both too stunned to speak.

Inside our car, if it weren’t for the road noise, the only sound would have been my soft weeping, caused by the quick and profound grief I experienced through a stranger’s loss. We have a twenty-year-old, and I put myself in this man’s shoes.

“Wow,” my husband finally said. “Why do you think he needed to tell you that?”

I knew. As a mother, I knew.

“It’s his way to keep her memory alive,” I said, wiping the tears off my face with both hands. “He wanted to talk about her. It’s his way of dealing with the grief.”

And, in that moment, I knew why I’d found the cell phone. It was a reason so much bigger than saving someone $500. I was directed into this man’s circle of healing — a stranger — through a lost cell phone, and reminded again of the sacrifices of those who serve our great nation.

~Dana Martin

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