Wednesday, January 5, 2011

People Are Good

It seems that so much of today's news is negative. Murders. Car accidents. Robberies. Rapes. Political scandals. War. The economy. It's all negative. I often wonder if newspapers and news broadcasts are run by Debbie Downer.

And then just when I think I've lost my faith in humanity, I find a gem of a story that lifts my heart and reminds me that at their very core, people are good.

Jon Yates, the author of the Tribune's What's Your Problem? column usually writes about people getting ripped off and helps to make them whole again. Today, however, he writes of a woman who found a significant amount of cash money just before Christmas and is desperately trying to find the rightful owner. My favorite part of the story below is that at no time did she think about keeping the money for herself, like so many people would have. She's even teaching her children that "finder's keepers" doesn't always apply. That makes my heart skip a beat.

Family Seeks Owners of Missing Money
Jon Yates, What's Your Problem?, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 6, 2011

It would have been easy for Shannon Dowdle to have taken the cash-stuffed envelope and run.

After all, no one had seen her scoop it off the Skokie sidewalk, and there was no way of tracking the wad of money.

But it was just four days before Christmas, and Dowdle is no Mr. Potter.

The Glenview mother thumbed through the more than $1,000 and knew she had to find the rightful owner.

"I didn't count it until I got into the car and I was like, 'Oh gosh,'" Dowdle said. "All these thoughts went through my mind. I was just sick to my stomach."

Given the date (Dec. 21) and where she found the money (outside the Shops at Orchard Place) Dowdle was convinced someone intended to use the cash to purchase Christmas gifts.

"I thought somebody would really be missing it," she said.

Determined to figure out who dropped it, Dowdle took the envelope into three nearby stores: an Ulta cosmetics store, Best Buy and Pier 1 Imports. No one had reported the money missing.

So Dowdle waited. After almost an hour, when it became apparent that whoever lost the money was not coming back, Dowdle left her name and phone number at each store.

On Dec. 23 her husband, Rick Dowdle, went back to the Ulta store and asked if anyone had inquired about the envelope. The store manager said yes, an elderly couple came in earlier that day and asked if anyone had found an envelope filled with cash.

The manager, apparently unaware of earlier events, told the couple no.

The manager asked the elderly couple for their names and address, but they refused to give them, the manager told Dowdle.

"The manager said the couple was pretty upset," Rick Dowdle said. "She said (they) thought someone had found it and kept it."

Since then, the Dowdles and their six children have made it a family project to find the rightful owners.

They contacted e Skokie police and were told no one had reported the money missing, they said. They called security at the shopping center, but there were no reports filed there either.

They posted information about the money on craigslist, but no one responded.

Because the envelope had a bank insignia on it, the family contacted the bank. The bank sent an e-mail to branch managers in the area, but none has reported any knowledge of who the elderly couple might be.

"On Christmas Eve, we had quite a discussion about what to do with the money," Rick Dowdle said.

In the end, the family decided that if it couldn't find the owners, it would donate the money to charity. The Dowdles said their kids were adamant about finding the true owners.

"None of them said, 'Let's go spend it,'" Shannon Dowdle said. "They felt so bad about it. They baby-sit and they know how important it is, the money you make."

Last week, the family e-mailed What's Your Problem? hoping publicity would help track down the elderly couple.

Initially, the Dowdles did not want their name in the paper.

"This isn't about us," Rick Dowdle said.

But when the Problem Solver said he does not publish stories with anonymous sources, the family relented.

Keeping the money was never a consideration, they said.

"It makes you think, what would I want somebody else to do for me?" Shannon Dowdle said.

She realizes the family might never find the true owners.

"It's like a needle in a haystack, I'm telling you," she said. "Hopefully, it will have a happy ending."

If the money is yours, or you know who lost it, contact the Problem Solver via e-mail at, or call the Tribune's city desk at 312-222-3650.

The Problem Solver knows the exact amount that was lost, the denominations of the bills and the name of the bank that was on the envelope, so please do not respond unless the money is truly yours.

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