Most ATM users head to the nearest machine for one purpose only: to withdraw cash. They go through the motions of inserting their debit cards, typing in a pin and selecting the amount of money they need. Once the bills are dispensed, they head off.
But one man drove up to his local ATM only to find the normal process was out of whack: money was already waiting for him in the machine. Some may have driven off with the unclaimed $500, but he decided to take the only logical course of action.
On November 11, 2015, Bobby Puryear of Modesto, California, headed to his local drive-through ATM, likely expecting a quick in-and-out trip. But when he put his card in the machine, he saw something out of the ordinary.
Puryear wrote in a Facebook post the day after the incident, “I noticed where the money comes out of that there was [already] money in it.” He took the cash from the machine, but he didn’t drive away with a free gift like some people might.
Instead, he counted the money and realized it was a larger-than-usual amount of cash to be withdrawing: $500 in total. Then he drove his car around to the bank, got out of his car and went inside with the wad of bills.
When it was Puryear’s turn to speak to the teller, he explained what had happened before giving her the money he had found. Puryear wrote in his Facebook post, “She wouldn’t take it.” She called over her manager, who had a similar reaction.
Puryear wrote, “He said, ‘What do you expect me to do with it?’” The good Samaritan suggested that the bank staff check and see who had used the ATM before Puryear. Perhaps withdrawal records would show whose account had been reduced by $500.
It turned out that Puryear’s plan of action was completely plausible. It took the bank just one day to find the person whose money he had found. They called him to let him know that they had located her – and she was on the line to express her gratitude.
The woman on the phone was named Edith, according to Puryear. She told him that she was 92 years old and had gone to the ATM to withdraw the cash she needed to pay her rent. The $500 he found would pay the $480 sum she owed her landlord.
Surprisingly, that wasn’t all: the $500 was all the money she had saved in her account and $480 of it would go to rent. And to thank Puryear properly, Edith said she wanted to give him the $20 left over after she paid her rent.
That was all the cash she had to get through the rest of the month though, and Puryear knew it. He turned down her offer quickly and graciously. “I told her absolutely not and to have a great day,” he wrote.
After that, Puryear hung up the phone, but he couldn’t stop thinking about the woman with whom he had just had a conversation. Even though she got her $500 back, she would only have $20 to get her through until the next month.
Eventually, he decided to stop worrying about her financial situation and do something about it. He called the bank again, but this time he put in a different request: he wanted to transfer money from one account to another.
Puryear had the bank move $200 from his account to Edith’s, an action he likely thought was the end of the exchange with the elderly woman. But he soon found out that his kindness had an impact on the bank’s employees – and they took action too.
Immediately upon hearing that Puryear gave the old woman $200, one bank employee transferred $100 of his own money into Edith’s account. She went from a balance of zero to a healthy $300. It wouldn’t end there either.
The bank’s team of tellers then held a fundraiser of their own. Among themselves, they gathered another $300 to transfer into Edith’s account too. Altogether, Puryear and the branch’s staff sent $600 to her, just hours after she had spoken on the phone with both parties.
The donation undoubtedly made the 92-year-old’s day, but also warmed Puryear’s heart. He wrote, “Today was a good day. Merry Christmas a little early, Edith.” The Facebook post in which he shared his story eventually touched a huge amount of readers too.
Since sharing his story on November 12, 2015, Puryear’s post has been shared almost 178,000 times. It has garnered 127 Facebook reactions, including “like” and “love,” and it has more than 60 comments, many of which praised Puryear’s efforts.
But no one could sum up the moral of the story quite like Puryear himself, who added a comment later to his original post. He said, “I think we all just need to help each other. If everybody would help each other, we wouldn’t have all the hate and problems we have now.”
He went on to encourage others to pay it forward like he had – doing so had quite a few benefits, according to Puryear. He wrote, “Just be kind and help one another. It’s not hard and it’s very rewarding and it just makes you feel good.”