Today, on the way to my son's bus stop, I noticed a pink iPhone on the ground. An expensive item, just lying there, as if recently dropped by someone who had to be under the age of twenty. Okay, probably under the age of sixteen.
Now, I know firsthand that things get lost in New York City. My own
phone actually (though not an iPhone) disappeared into thin air a few
years ago. Toys belonging to my children have left our apartment never
to be seen again. It happens.
So, there, on the ground, was a pink iPhone. It would, I thought, be
scooped up and "disappeared" in moments, and why not? Who wouldn't feel
lucky finding the equivalent of a bunch of money as they were walking? I
thought about what the kid who dropped it must be thinking--about the sinking feeling of
discovering it was no longer in your pocket, the absolutely awful experience of having to tell your parents, and the sense of loss, knowing that a tiny piece of the record of your life was just gone. And
before I knew it, I had retraced my steps and picked up the phone.
Once holding it, as if I had picked up a hurt baby bird, I was stuck as
to what to do. I had rescued it from certain vanishing, but how
would I be any different from anyone else who picked it up? With the
keypad locked, it could give me little clue as to the identity of its
owner. It rang as I held it, but the caller hung up too quickly to be of
help. Yet, in the pocket of its case were a student Metrocard and a
library card. And, lo and behold, the Metrocard had a name. And a
number. Which narrowed things down to, well, probably thousands of kids with
cellphones at hundreds of schools in the New York City area. But with a little luck, my first
guess was the right one. And within an hour, the pink iPhone was back in
the hands of its very relieved young owner.
I tend to spend a lot of time thinking I'm not too useful if I'm not
making money to fund my family or not making a dinner everyone likes or
not using my hours at home to render our apartment "cleaning lady clean"
(not that we've ever really had a cleaning lady). Today, in the course of my hour with the pink iPhone, I felt more useful than I have on any number of days at work or at home.
"useful" is not about money or food or cleaning. Sometimes "useful" is just
about a pink iPhone and the smile on the face of a child.