Also known as “How my pride was stolen on the Vltava”. 😉
One of the first things my mom asked me when I told her I wanted to move to Prague was “But, is it safe there?”. I would say that’s a fair question for a mother to ask her
favorite child who’s moving to a foreign country by herself. I laughed and said “Of course it is”…and then did the research to back up my statement.
The Czech Republic, overall, has a very low crime rate–much lower than the United States, and much less violent crime (http://www.ifitweremyhome.com/compare/US/CZ). The only things you really have to worry about are pickpocketing and other petty crimes. (Looking at you tourists watching the Astronomical Clock! Keep your bags closed and zipped!)
Our story begins on a lovely summer afternoon. My friend and I spent the morning walking by the river and stopped into a cafe to get a coffee and some ice cream. We were sitting outside, so we decided to duck into the cafe and find seats inside when it started to rain. About ten minutes later, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach that I had forgotten something.
Now friends, “absentminded” would not be the first word I use to describe myself. I’m fairly street smart and usually don’t leave my purse hanging off the back of a chair. I can’t say why I did those things that day, other than the fact that I’ve settled into the carefree European lifestyle. And coffee and ice cream.
I ran outside to where we were sitting a few minutes before. No purse. I ask the workers at the counter if anyone turned anything in. No luck. I go outside again and ask the people sitting near the table. They didn’t see anything. My stomach sinks lower and lower.
After a small freak out, I swallowed my pride and realized there’s no use obsessing over a situation I no longer have control over. I locked my credit cards, went to the local police office and reported it missing, my friends spotted me some money to get a transit card, and we carried on with our day.
Fortunately for me, I really did not have much in my purse. The most valuable items I had on me were my credit cards, my apartment keys, my transit pass (which I had just purchased), about 200 Czech crowns (about $10 USD), my Virginia driver’s license (not very valuable in Prague), my Social Security card (also not very valuable abroad), and a mass card from my grandpa’s funeral. Thankfully, I’m obsessed with my phone and it rarely leaves my hand, so I had that with me. I also NEVER take my passport with me, so that was safely tucked away in my apartment. All in all, nothing that I would be absolutely screwed without. I considered myself lucky, walking away with only a bruised ego.
A few days later, with a new purse and wallet in hand, I got a Facebook message from a random stranger. They said that they had found my purse in a toilet near the river and had graciously fished out the items that seemed valuable. They shared that most of the items were beyond salvageable from the water damage, but that they wanted to return what they had saved to me. My jaw fell to the floor and I jumped for joy! We arranged a public meeting place, they gave me back my stuff in a plastic bag, I thanked them profusely, and we parted ways.
I’m fairly certain that had this same instance taken place back home in the States, there would have been a very different ending to this story. My Good Samaritans gave me back my credit cards, my social security card, my driver’s license, and my grandpa’s mass card. All of those items (maybe with the exception of the mass card) would be extremely valuable in the US and I would have had to jump through hoops to get them replaced and reissued, not to mention the potential of grappling with the repercussions of identity theft.
Now, why share this completely embarrassing story of me losing my personal belongings 100% sober? Because I would like to be the Good Samaritan one day. I would like to think that if I saw someone’s personal belongings dumped in a toilet, that I could empathize enough to fish them out, find the complete stranger, and safely return their items. I would like to think that even though this world is full of people who hate, who commit crimes, who act like they’re only looking out for themselves, that it is actually filled with even more people who are good and who will go out of their way to help their fellow humans.
Recovering a purse is a small act of kindness, but it means so much to the person on the other end. One good deed begets another, and another, and another. Be the positive change you want to see in the world, even on a small-scale. Those acts of kindness ripple out and eventually make waves!