According to Me: All hope is(n’t) lost

No part of me is joking when I say that I’ve been incredibly downtrodden about the state of society lately. Watching local, state and national news does next to nothing to ease those tensions. In short, I’ve seen a broken, twisted, ignominious people with decreasingly commendable characteristics.

And given that I’ve pretty well decided that absolutely nothing good happens after dark, it appeared a foregone conclusion my cynical view of mankind would be reinforced Monday night around 9:30. A car pulled into my driveway and honked several times. I couldn’t make out anything about the people in the vehicle; only headlights on a four-door sedan that I thought might be silver. I have a policy that I don’t answer my door for people I don’t know. That policy is ironclad when the world is dark.

I watched as that car rode down my street and past my house a couple of times and then I decided – for the very first time in my life – to call for an officer to patrol my neighborhood. I also called my friend Mike Swims, the Demopolis Police Department chaplain who happens to live two houses down.

As I stepped out the back door of my house expecting to see Chaplain Swims, I found the very same car that triggered my adrenal glands to be parked in my driveway. Chaplain Swims had pulled in right behind them. And the Demopolis patrol unit was pulling onto the scene.

I stepped out to the sound of Swims asking, “What are you guys doing here?” And a young lady who had just gotten out of the passenger door was clutching something in her hand as she said something I couldn’t quite make out. Then I heard Mike say, “Patricia?”

And suddenly the whole scene snapped into focus. There was no nefariousness here. Quite the opposite actually. This couple was trying to return a wallet they found at Walmart to its rightful owner.

“That’s my wife’s first name,” I exclaimed as I rushed down the driveway. As an aside, this is an excellent illustration of why the name you go by should be the name on your driver’s license.

My wife, stressed and tired and pregnant as she is (she is also a teacher just 14 wakeups away from the end of the academic calendar) had left her wallet in the buggy at Walmart less than two hours earlier. Then she went home and climbed into bed, wholly unaware of the folly.

So the situation that wasn’t quickly diffused. The patrol car left. I profusely thanked Deshundra Gaines and Jermaine Brown of Livingston for their altruism and their dedication to helping somebody they didn’t even know. And I stood in the driveway with Chaplain Swims and thought about how nobody does random good deeds anymore and that I had just called the police on two people that were trying to do just that.

Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging anyone to open the door for strangers in the middle of the night. But I am saying that maybe we all – especially me – should be a little less cynical. There is some vestige of human decency and goodness out there. There are still people who are just trying to do good and look out for other people. And, maybe as a reporter, I would like to spend a little more effort on the good stories that no one tells than on the pervasively dismal ones that seem to permeate the news cycle.

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears occasionally on It will likely appear more frequently if he ever finishes graduate school.