Elusive purse finds owner more than once

Posted by Lucy Luginbill on July 26, 2013 

Madeleine Brown's elusive Fair Trade purse.

COURTESY OF MADELEINE BROWN

There’s a book that claims to have 14,000 things to be happy about. “The feel of a rug under bare feet,” “sweet fresh corn and baby green lima beans, drenched in cream” and “seeing the moon rise” are only a few on a comprehensive list by the author, Barbara Ann Kipper.

But there’s a woman in Richland who could add at least three more: 1. Purse returned. 2. Purse returned again. 3. Purse returned again! Her story took her from sad to happy — again and again … and again.

On a perfect summer day in very late June, Madeleine Brown decided to forego using her Nissan Leaf, an electric car, and enjoy a ride on her bus pass. Already environmentally conscious, the Department of Ecology employee typically goes the “extra mile” in good weather as another way to reduce her carbon footprint.

“I usually drive,” Madeleine explains, “but in the month of June I decided to use a bus pass to get more exercise,” referring to the walk to and from the bus stop. Then she adds, “When you’re on the bus you can read.”

However, when she stepped aboard the Ben Franklin Transit with her book in hand, Madeleine’s handbag was left behind. A quick call had a bus employee retrieving the purse from the bus bench and delivering it to the police station.

That was the first “happy” on her list.

The second moment of happiness occurred in Portland, Oregon. A Fourth of July weekend trip included a hotel stay with her husband and college-age daughter. But when they checked-in at the counter, her handbag was once again left behind.

“I was starting to worry about Alzheimer’s,” the middle-age woman says with a laugh,” remembering how she quickly retrieved her purse from the front desk staff.

Add No. 2 “happy” to the list.

What happened next wasn’t so happy. When Madeleine and her family boarded the Portland Light Rail for the Waterfront Blues Festival, she discovered that her handbag was missing—again!

“I felt frightened and stupid,” the vacationing mom says. “I had been reading and got distracted,” thinking about her short-handle purse so easily set aside.

Within minutes of the discovery, she canceled credit cards; all the while concerned about who might have found her handbag. In it was $140 in cash, a minor issue compared to her old Palm Pilot that held countless passwords and other confidential information.

“I tried to not bring my daughter down,” Madeleine says about the loss and her attempt to have a good time at the concert in spite of her anxious feelings.

Surprisingly, within a day, No. 3 “happy” was added to the list.

Into Madeleine’s cell phone email came a message from the Richland Public Library that a woman had found her handbag—and her library card—on a Portland bus.

“I called her ‘lickety split’ and I was gushing gratitude,” the happy traveler recalls. “She gave me her address and there it was!”

A quick inventory of her very nice Fair-Trade purse revealed every item was inside, including driver’s license, gift cards and credit cards. The only thing missing was the cash.

“I felt such an intense sense of gratitude for the woman,” Madeleine explains with emotion, remembering how the “30-something” mother of three was not a person of means. “I had her address (in subsidized housing) and later sent her a reward.” But Madeleine’s thankfulness for her repeated good fortune didn’t end there. She wrote a letter to the Portland Oregonian and the Tri-City Herald to express her gratefulness.

“I not only got back my purse—but also my faith in the kindness of strangers and the inherent goodness of most people,” Madeleine wrote in the Herald’s “Thankful Thursday” letter.

Besides the letters, she can also add a No. 4 to the “things to be happy about” list: An intense attitude of gratitude.

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