Complete stranger returns wallet filled with $400 of Christmas money

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) -

Todd Houston said he’s had his fair share of run-ins with dishonesty, thievery and just plain bad people, but on Tuesday, a phone call from an unrecognized number turned into an unexpected moment of what he called “the Alaska spirit.”

On Monday, Houston put in a full day of work at his electrical contracting business, Power and Light in Anchorage, Alaska. It wasn’t until driving home that he realized he was missing his wallet. In it were three credit cards, his Alaska driver's license and about $400 set aside as Christmas money.

“I put a little extra [cash] in the wallet to buy Christmas gifts without creating credit card receipts,” said Houston, adding he didn’t want his wife to see what he would be buying for her on an online credit card report.

For hours, he searched for his wallet around his business in the dark. He searched his office. He scoured his car.

Later in the evening, even his wife drove across town to join the effort, but to no avail.

Houston didn't have much hope of having his wallet returned. He said he’s been watching the news reports of crime on TV. He’s even dealt with break-ins at his business in recent memory.

Anchorage is now a big city, with big city problems, Houston said.

“I had just told one of my workers that I had worked with for 15 years that I just wish people were more honest and someone could've found it,” said Houston.

The next morning, the phone rang. On the other end, a complete stranger.

“I was actually visiting my sister and dropping something off for her and leaving her place,” David Harne said.

Harne lives in Kasilof, but found himself in Anchorage on Tuesday. That's when a brown leather rectangle somehow caught his eye.

“Right dead center in the middle of the road, there's a wallet lying,” said Harne. “I drove past it because there was traffic behind me, walked back and picked it up.”

As a lifelong Alaskan, Harne said he knew he had to find its owner. He doesn’t own a smartphone, so he called his wife in Kasilof to search the name of the business card he found in the wallet.

“I called him up, asked him if it was his and he said it was, so he gave me directions to his place of business,” said Harne.

Houston said he couldn't believe it. A complete stranger was at his doorstep with all his credit cards and all his cash accounted for.

“I told him, ‘Thank you very much. I'd like to give you an reward,’ and tried to hand him a $100 bill,” said Houston. “He wouldn't take it. He said ‘Merry Christmas’ and off he went.”

With a handshake and nothing more, Harne drove south on the Seward Highway.

“I think it's the Alaskan way. Most everybody I know would have returned it,” said Harne.

“It reminded me of the old days up here when you just never locked the door or anything,” Houston said.

Houston said he's lived in Alaska for decades. He's been affected by the bad economy and recently had his business broken into, but it's moments like this that remind him of the generosity of complete strangers that makes Alaska home.

“It was a good surprise for me, and an acknowledgement that there are good honest people in Anchorage still,” said Houston. “Yeah, I still do love Anchorage.”

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