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My Turn: Lost and found ó a story of astounding honesty

By Mary James
There are countless stories of folks who, despite their own dire circumstances, still do whatís right and noble and honest. But hereís one that left me flabbergasted. We hear about the wisdom of ěpaying it forward,î that is, doing something nice for someone else after someone does something nice for us. This is a case, however, of wanting so much to ěpay it back,î if only I knew how. Perhaps just telling the story will help.
I was at a private birthday party at Cooperís restaurant in downtown Salisbury several days ago. I left my card, with a $60 gift certificate for a local restaurant enclosed, on a table with all the other greetings for the honoree who was turning 60. (No, she wouldnít want you to know her name!) She scooped up all her cards and gifts to take home afterwards and apparently dropped my card in the parking lot on Fisher Street.
I was positively stunned when a man called me two days later to say he had found my card, opened it up, saw my name, searched the Internet for me, eventually found my number and called to arrange its return. He was at the library nearby at the time and came right over. I promptly gave him $20 and thanked him for his kindness and honesty. I almost let him leave, but there was something about his humble and unassuming demeanor that made me ask him to come inside and chat for a moment.
He didnít try to burden me with his situation, but only opened up because I kept asking questions. And hereís what I discovered: He is currently residing at the homeless shelter, is an artist by trade but not faring so well these days when commissioning art is often a luxury, has done other odd jobs when he can find them, is unmarried and the primary caretaker of his aging mother.
You may even know him: Charlie Mabe (heís OK with my using his real name), a student of Rowan County schools, former co-owner of Charlieís Barbeque in Landis. Heís done everything in the food industry, from managing, to cooking, to waitering. Heís won awards for the custom airbrush designs heís created for motorcycles and cars, including work done for some pretty famous names in the racing industries. In fact, you can witness his talent on the cover of Easy Rider magazineís December 1999 issue. Heís done loads of woodworking, especially remodeling his motherís house. Charlie has submitted countless job applications, but like so many others in their late-40s, loses out to younger folks for what few openings there are.
I promptly whipped out another $20, which elicited wide-eyed consternation at first, then a major hug and hearty thanks. After waving him off and wishing him well, I was left to ponder the obvious: What would prompt a person in such tough straits, struggling in this desperate economy, to forego using the gift certificate himself, and actually make the extra effort to track down its owner? Wow. I asked for his momís phone number so I could tell her what a fine son sheís raised. She added a footnote to my story: Charlie told her the woman he was with when he found the certificate said, ěHey, take me out to supper!î But nope, Charlie would have none of it.
This can only be a person of extraordinary integrity, good heart, pure soul and solid work ethic. All I can say is, whoever employs Charlie Mabe better give thanks for finding ěa good one.î Iím rootiní for ya, Charlie!

Mary James lives in Salisbury
Have a ëMy Turní idea?
ěMy Turnî columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@salisburypost.com with ěMy Turnî in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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