It is the time of year when people try to come up with a fitting way to describe the previous 12 months. A dumpster, most likely one on fire, seems to be a popular metaphor for 2020.
But while this story does, indeed, involve a dumpster, it seems to represent everything that 2020 was not.
"It's a beautiful story," Evelyn Topper said. "What a wonderful story for this time of year."
The story begins on the morning of Dec. 9 at Kamson Coffee in San Rafael. Topper had just finished buying a chai soy latte for herself and a boba tea for her soon-to-be 12-year-old granddaughter, Mikayla Gounard. On security footage the coffee shop's owner shared with Topper, she can be seen placing her wallet in her jacket pocket but not zippering it up.
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When Topper got home, the wallet was gone.
"In this little wallet was everything," Topper said. "Every credit, debit, medicare card. Everyting I own. I was distraught."
Just a day later, though, Topper got a call from Sean Currey. Currey, who has been homeless for the past five years, had been looking through the dumpster behind the coffee shop when he found Topper's wallet.
There was no cash in the wallet, but Currey said a friend suggested he use the credit cards before they were canceled. He said no. Instead, Currey called Topper to arrange the return of the wallet.
"I did it because I got a heart," Currey said. "That's the way I was brought up."
"I was screaming," Topper said. "It's a mitzvah! I asked him if he knew what a mitzvah was and he said, 'No.' I said it's like a good deed."
The good deeds, Currey soon discovered, were not done.
For Gounard's upcoming socially-distant, drive-by 12th birthday party, she was planning on asking friends for a donation rather than a gift but hadn't decided on whom to give the money to.
Then, she heard about not only what Currey did but about his lack of housing.
"I wanted to give to somebody who really needed something," Gounard said.
So, when her guests pulled up for her celebration, there were balloons and party favors, but there was also a picture of Currey and a basket for donations.
Gounard ended up raising hundreds of dollars. She and her mother met Currey the next day to give him the cash.
"I'm humbled," Currey said. "I'm just blessed. It's hard to express words for it. I'm at a loss. I'm warmed by it, 100%."
"I think that it's really important that people who think that because you got pushed down you can never get back up again," Gounard said.