When he spotted a wallet on the street on his way out of work Friday, Chicago Police Officer Jim Buckley couldn’t sit idle.
“I opened it up, saw a couple of kids’ pictures in the bifold, a lot of credit cards, some money, and a driver's license,” the officer said.
It stuck with him. So much so, he decided to do something about it.
Not by sending the wallet through the mail or leaving it at the police station. Buckley got in his car and took a road trip.
“I’m like 'oh, he’s in Plymouth, Indiana. About a two-hour drive.' I figure I’ll grab it, and I’ll just drive over to his house and hopefully he’s there,” the officer said.
So, on Saturday, Buckley showed up at the home of John Barron, the wallet's rightful owner.
Barron wasn’t home initially. But his family was there. They were in shock when they realized the off-duty officer had driven two hours one-way to return an item to someone he didn’t even know.
“His daughter was crying. I almost got teary eyed. I hope someone would do it for me,” Buckley said.
Minutes later, Barron arrived home to a big surprise.
“I just kept saying you really drove this over here?", he stated. "I kind of teared up. I’m an emotional guy anyway. In the world we live in today, you don’t hear about people doing these things.”
As it turns out, Barron had been in Chicago Friday to pick up his 2-year-old grandson from his daughter, who lives by the Chicago Police Academy, near where the wallet was found.
Buckley says he didn't want to chance a delay in the mail due to recent snowstorms.
He knew if he'd lost his own wallet, he'd want it back right away.
"It's a lifeline," the officer said. "He needs his wallet. He needs his money. He needs his credit cards. Plus, it being a Saturday, who knows if he wants to go out Saturday evening with his family?"
The small gesture meant a lot to Barron, a longtime football coach and teacher who had an especially difficult past several months.
Late last year, the beloved father and grandfather was diagnosed with the coronavirus and subsequently hospitalized.
"It was a time where I didn’t know if I was going to make it," he said.
Barron recovered, and since then has been living every day to the fullest despite the pandemic.
"This year has been a challenge for everyone," he said. "It’s just been really, really hard. Being a public high school teacher, it’s hard on the students and parents to get through this. Maybe this story will touch someone and inspire them to do something nice."
Barron and his family tried to at least provide officer Buckley with gas money, but he wouldn't accept, instead asking them to "pay it forward to someone else."
Barron is already doing just that.
In his free time, Barron volunteers at the same hospital where doctors and nurses saved his life.
"I’m glad he’s wearing the blue," the coach and teacher said, referring to Buckley. "That’s the kind of person you want serving and protecting us."
For Barron and his family, the small act of kindness has had an enormous impact.
"I’ll never forget this guy," the coach said. "I may never talk to him again, but I’ll never forget it."