Just a Pair of North Face Gloves

Written By: Kim - Jan• 24•12

As I was preparing to leave my commuter train tonight, I stepped on a pair of gloves. I asked everyone near me if they belonged to them. No one claimed them.

These weren’t just any generic gloves — they were North Face gloves. Dark gray, men’s large, with grip tips on the ends of the fingers. A quick search told me they retail for $25.00. They would have fit my son perfectly and gray is a color he wears. They are also the brand coveted by many teenagers of which my children are no exception.

©Sarah Jay courtesy of stock.xchng

My commute time between when I discovered the gloves and when I leave the train lasts about five minutes. It’s long enough for me to simply place the gloves in my bag. A quick run through the wash machine and they now belong in our household. It’s also long enough for me to know the standard operating procedure for the VRE’s lost & found: We hand the item over to the conductor. He or she drops it off at the VRE HQ. The items stay there about a month.

I’ve lost two things on the VRE in almost six years of using the train to trek in to Washington, DC. I left a really awesome American flag j-handled umbrella (which no one turned in to lost and found) and my ticket holder. My ticket holder also has my Washington, DC Metro card (SmarTrip), my business card, and any free VRE passes I have earned when the train is 30 minutes late or more. Luckily, the on time train performance is much better since both Norfolk Southern and CSX finished replacing railroad ties a few years back, so I only had four.

The person who found my badge holder could have simply taken the VRE tickets and the SmarTrip card out and used them. But he or she did not. He or she turned in the entire badge holder to the conductor. Since my business card was inside, VRE called me. After I identified the items, they returned it to me. Yes, there are honest people still around; many more than we all let our jaded selves believe.

So, if there was a chance that this guy who dropped his gloves might call VRE looking for them, I knew what to do despite the temptation to keep them. The right thing was for me to give them to the conductor. Let me be clear: Passengers on the VRE are far from the community’s needy. Some might take that in to consideration as an honesty litmus test. But, that’s not really the point. The point is that this item did not belong to me. It was left somewhere that had a procedure for recovering items that were lost.

I encourage my children to turn things in to someone in authority when they find something at school, on the bus, etc. Why wouldn’t I expect anything less of myself, even if it was just a pair of North Face gloves?


PS. 31 January: The guy who lost the gloves sat behind me again. I asked him about them and let him know they were at VRE’s lost & found.

Goodbye Friend

Written By: Kim - Nov• 13•11

This weekend, we said goodbye to a good friend of my son’s. Between the viewing and the funeral, I am not sure who was more of a wreck; me or my son. We stayed at the viewing for about three hours. The teen friends who attended the viewing were simply amazing. They cried, but they consoled each other. When a new wave of teens arrived, the ones who had already been to see Connor Albright embraced them and led them through the steps. It was leadership and humanity at its best.

Connor Bingham Albright, 08/28/97 - 11/07/11

The morning of the funeral, I found myself amazingly composed. I managed not to turn in to a water faucet until they shut the lid of Connor Albright’s coffin. The complete sense of closure and goodbye overwhelmed me. I haven’t cried that hard since I buried a friend’s son in 2006 or my Mom in 2002. As a mother, this sight broke my heart.

The church’s pastors and the Air Force chaplain were amazing. They remained composed and comforted us with their words. It always amazes me that during times of mourning our clergy comfort us so. I always find the strength to continue forward. They reminded us that mourning is ok. It is part of the grieving process. They reminded us that Connor’s soul is on the other side and that it should be our goal to embrace Jesus to make sure we are reunited with him one day.

The family’s grief counselor asked all of Connor’s friends to stand. She spoke to them words of encouragement and consolation. She told them that Connor took great joy in his friendship with them and that they should never forget that. She reminded them that is was ok to continue to speak about him and talk to his family about their memories of Connor. 

She also told the teens that in the darkest hours of the night when the family awoke in grief, it comforted them tremendously to see Connor’s friends commenting on his Facebook page.

Connor’s brother said his account received over 300 friend requests when news of his death broke. He accepted them all because his family wanted to stay in touch with the kids so they would know what was going on. Social media served us well during a crisis.

The counselor then went on to read the most amazing letter from Connor’s family. They spoke to the community: the teachers, grief counselors, friends and finally, directly to Connor. As she laid her hand on Connor’s coffin and read the closing part of the letter, the family told Connor they were not mad at him. That they understood that sometimes the adolescent brain does not connect the permanency of death with actions. They told him is baby brother, to be born in January 2012, will know him just as they do. It was the second time that morning that I cried so hard my shoulders shook. None of us ever wish to write words of condolence, but the family’s eloquence and simple heartfelt message to the community and their son during their time of unimaginable sorry was just beautiful.

It was clear that the teen friends of Connor Albright needed this closure. As I was viewing the Facebook stream yesterday afternoon, the children commented that the finally thought everything would be all right. The sun will come out tomorrow and thank you Connor Albright for reminding us of that.