Lost and Found

Pictured above: Kelly, the Pittsburgh Port Authority worker that helped me with grace and patience. 

On May 12th, 2024, what was supposed to be a relaxing day in Pittsburgh took an unexpected turn. I had arrived the day prior and decided to explore the city before my conference began. I hopped on the 71B bus and headed toward PNC Park to watch a Pirates game. Everywhere I go, I carry a small black notebook carrier with two pens, two pencils, and two notebooks. Whenever I step away from the office, ideas come to me, and I write them down. The matinee between the Cubs and the Pirates was no exception. Sitting in my seat at the game, looking at the skyline of the Steel City, six ideas surfaced over the course of the first seven innings, and I jotted them down. I hadn’t been this productive in months, so for me, this was creative paydirt.

PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It started off as a lovely day.

As I left the field, I got back on the 71B and headed back to my Airbnb, carrying my notebook holder in hand. As the bus wound its way to Highland Park, I made a mental note that I would have to pick up my notebook carrier from the seat next to me when I got off the bus. Being new to the city, I carefully monitored Google Maps as the bus progressed toward my stop. When I rang the buzzer for my stop, the bus quickly pulled to the curb. In a moment of panic, I shot up out of my seat and disembarked. After a quick pat-down of my pockets to check for my keys, phone, and wallet, I was overcome with dread. My notebook case was still on the bus, along with all of my new writing ideas.

As the bus drove away, my heart sank.

The infamous 71B. This is where I panicked.

For anyone residing at the corner of Highland and Hampton in Pittsburgh at 5:15 on May 12th who witnessed a 6’2″, 43-year-old male with a beard running back and forth around the street corner, flagging down out-of-service buses, and glancing at his phone, I have an explanation for the commotion. I apologize; it was not my best moment. In fact, if you did witness what happened, I highly suspect that you would have thought I was in a state of clinical confusion of some sort. I’m still amazed that misplacing a notebook contributed to this level of disarray. Here is what happened:

When I realized that I had lost my notebook case, I immediately went on the Pittsburgh Regional Transit website and filed a lost and found report. Next, I noticed that the bus I was riding was on a loop, and I assumed it would be returning across the street. Sitting at the bus stop, I looked to the north and south for any bus. Soon, an out-of-service bus came by my stop. “Maybe my notebook folder is on that bus,” I thought. Foolishly, I believed it would stop. It didn’t. Then, I mistakenly crossed the street to flag down another out-of-service bus. Once I got to the other side, I turned around to see that the very same 71B with the exact same driver sped by me. Waving my hands in the air was futile. If only I had been patient and stayed on the right side of the street. Disappointed, I walked back to my Airbnb.

My cherished notebook case.

As I shuffled back from the bus stop, I took stock of the situation. Yes, I cherished my notebook holder. Sure, some of my ideas may be lost forever. However, everything in the notebook holder could be replaced. By the time I reached my bedroom, I was disappointed but not defeated. I would simply have to wait until the morning to see if my notebook case was turned into the Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s lost and found.

A lesson in mindfulness and awareness

Soon, I reflected on some lessons I learned as a recovering addict. In 2010, when I entered drug and alcohol treatment, I was issued a coffee mug with my name on it. Whenever I misplaced my coffee mug, it would get turned in to my addictions counselor by the treatment staff. Humbly, I would have to ask my counselor for my mug back. Over my time in treatment, this was an object lesson on being grounded and accountable. At some point on May 12th, 2024, my focus had become adrift, and I lost awareness.

The sign at the security gate of the East Liberty garage.

As I awoke the next morning I called Pittsburgh Regional Transit’s customer service. Within minutes the representative had located my notebook holder. After giving me the address of the East Liberty Garage and a claim number I was on my way.

Upon arrival, I approached the guard station at the garage. A woman named Kelly greeted me with warmth. She asked for my claim number and name. We were about to head into the large industrial bus garage of Pittsburgh Regional Transit when a man approached. Unfortunately, he had no claim number, and it had been about a week since he lost his phone. Kelly patiently walked the man through the steps of dealing with his claim. She displayed a measured and kind approach to working with someone who had lost something valuable. I could tell she had had this conversation many times before, yet she spoke with nothing but positivity and kindness.

A surprising and meaningful encounter.

Kelly led me through the stairways and corridors of the East Liberty Garage. We made many stops along the way. Numerous coworkers of Kelly stopped and greeted her. Everyone at East Liberty Garage was so kind, casual, courteous, and accommodating that I began to question if there was something in the water in Pittsburgh. Even the man at the lost and found wicket in the basement of the garage had a warm greeting for us both as he handed over my notebook case, which had been out of my possession for only eighteen hours.

What is your lost and found story?

Not every lost and found story ends like this. When I was in active addiction, I lost everything from a Nintendo DS to my car. Yes, that’s right, I said I lost my car; it happened in 2009, and it was in the impound for eight weeks. Today, I am grateful that my lost and found story from May 2024 started with panic, moved to acceptance, and ended with a surprise encounter with the friendly people at East Liberty Garage in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you look closely enough and keep your eyes open, you will find people like Kelly everywhere.

Make sure to comment below and join the conversation!

Seth Perry

Seth Perry

(he/him/his) Pastor- Mental Health Recovery Educator- Blogger


16 Responses

  1. You are a gifted writer and I thank you for taking the time to remind us of patience, surrender, acceptance…… all parts of mindfulness that allow us to the be the kind and gracious people god intended us to be. Thank God for you, Kelly and all those who do their part every day to make this living journey more serene!

  2. Another insightful and relatable experience shared by you, so thank you! What stands out to me most in your shared experience is that thankfully, you didn’t react with an attack to your own self worth. Too often, people blame themselves to their very core as though they are incompetent, for actions such as misplacing something. People can be their own worst enemy and have a hard time forgiving and extending grace to themselves even when they do something that is common to humankind. We live in a busy world, filled with incoming stimuli for our brains to process. This makes mindfulness even more helpful to us, along with still loving ourselves. Our Lord sure does love us!

    1. Absolutely. Spirituality is so much about freedom from self. I am my worst critic. I like that you pointed out self worth and how it is tied to this as well.

  3. I loved the article, I can feel your pain as I can relate to the experience of lost items. A great reminder of all the kind people that exist in the world.

  4. I remember the mug that was In the so called “jail” and the controversy over the word jail when it was lost.

    I remember those days but you remember them differently even though we were there to gether.

    Love hearing your stories . Keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re making a difference.

  5. Pastor Seth, you have shared a moving story. I could have easily seen myself in that same situation, but I am unsure if the outcome would have been the same. Yes, I do believe that our gracious Lord has placed angels on Earth to assist us in times of need. Of course, you or I could also be an angel to someone else in life, if we allow God to work through our hands, minds, and actions. May God continue to bless your wonderful ministry, by taking risks to share times in your life when you were in vulnerable situations.

  6. Thank you for writing this… a wonderful uplifting story about a humbling experience. (Believe me, as one gets older, this type of experience becomes more frequent. I find myself forgetting things I had just reminded myself to remember every day.) I’m going to try to be more mindful and less distracted, thanks to this wonderful scenario.
    Just one small thing….as the bus drove away, you may have felt like you were sunk, but your heart sank.

  7. I don’t have just one. I have many.-ADHD What I can tell you is, with God who has been at my side, everything I have lost has always been found eventually somewhere in my life.

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On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh I lost something very meaningful to me. Here is what and who I found along the way.