This is an opinion piece written by The Ithaca Voice Managing Editor Jolene Almendarez. To submit an opinion to The Voice, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
ITHACA, N.Y. — A blog post from the Albany Times Union is making its rounds on social media this week after a writer from the newspaper had a truly Ithacan moment: a teenage boy found his wallet, called the writer at his work phone number, and left a message letting him know where to find it hidden among planters at The Ithaca Commons.
Writer Michael Huber was impressed by this teenager. He wrote, “So some kid found my wallet and didn’t steal it? Incredible. Instead, he took the time to find a contact number, called and left detailed instructions on where he hid it, in the flowers behind this bench.”
Huber then wrote that he offered the kid money in exchange for his honesty but the boy declined.
I can understand why Michael Huber would be surprised by the kindness. When I was living in my hometown San Antonio, I would have been surprised to get a wallet back too. But having lived in Ithaca for just over a year, Huber’s story seemed almost expected. Of course he would get his wallet back if he dropped it in Ithaca. I got mine back, too.
About a year ago, when I was a brand new Ithacan, I also dropped my wallet — ID card, debit card, my essential Shortstop rewards card — and a lovely Ithacan mailed the cards to me.
I got everything back. Now, I’m from a city of nearly 1.5 million people. I never expected to see any of those cards again. So getting them back was such a warm welcome to the city. It’s exactly the kind of thing I would want to happen in a city I live in, and one of the small things that made me fall in love with this place.
I can hear the critics already, lamenting about the rosy colored lens people like me often see Ithaca through. But as an The Ithaca Voice reporter, I assure you that I’m not naive to this city’s problems.
I’m there to see needle-covered alleyways. I talk to people about their brown water, which I also have. The first time I ever saw the Ithaca Falls was during a recovery effort.
I know this city has its share of serious problems and I know people are divided about how to fix them.
But I am fortunate enough to also see the best of Ithaca every single day.
Ithacans are trying to make housing more affordable. They are trying to innovate how drug addicts are treated by police and the court system. They are making art. They’re creating tools to make the world a better, more interesting place. And they are returning lost wallets when they find them.
It can be easy to get swept up in all the things that are wrong with the city because it is always easier to gripe and complain than to smell the roses. But Huber’s story, pointing out something that us Ithacans take for granted as commonplace, is a brilliant reminder that our city is actually incredibly gorges.