Nov. 19, 2010— -- When a homeless Arizona man found a backpack containing thousands of dollars in cash, he could have seen it as a windfall. Instead, he saw that it was returned to its owner, an honorable act that's now paying off.
Dave Tally, a recovering drug addict, came across the lost backpack earlier this month in a light rail station in Tempe. He opened it up, trying to find some sort of identification or baggage tag.
Inside, there were no clues about its rightful owner, but Tally did find an envelope stuffed with $3,300 in cash, as well as a laptop computer.
"Finding the envelope with the case was just mind-blowing," Tally said. "There were lots of crazy thoughts that went through my head."
The cash could have meant a lot for Tally, who's lived on the streets for several years after losing his home. He now sleeps n the basement of local churches, saving what little he can to fix his broken bike, his only source of transportation.
"I went into survival mode for a moment, actually more than a moment," Tally said, "thinking about all the things I could do for myself."
But in the end, the money wasn't worth more than his honor.
"It wasn't easy, but I know it was the right thing to do," Tally said. "I beat myself up pretty hard for even thinking I would spend one dime of that person's money."
Tally took the bag to his boss at the Tempe Community Action Agency, which helps homeless people in the area find shelter and where he holds down a part time job. With no ID on the bag, they had no way of finding the owner until someone thought to plug in a flash drive that was with the computer.
ASU Student Lost Bag on Way to Work
On the drive was the resume of Bryan Belanger, an Arizona State University student who thought he'd never see his belongings again after mistakenly leaving them in the station on his way to work. He was carrying the envelope of money with plans to buy a used car off Craigslist.
Thanks to Tally's good deed, the bag, cash and computer were back in Belanger's hands five days after he reported them missing.
"It's just the greatest thing I've ever experienced, I think," said Belanger. "It really is a lesson to keep your faith in people, and character exists no matter what your circumstances are."
When Belanger met Tally, he offered a grateful handshake and a cash reward. Belanger even promised to volunteer at the Tempe Community Action Agency.
But those aren't the only rewards Tally's decision brought him. After his story aired on ABC's Phoenix affiliate KNXV-TV, strangers sent Tally checks, and even found him to hand him cash. More than enough money has come in to fix his broken bike.
For his part, Tally hopes his act will change some people's notions about the homeless.
"My time being on the streets, I met some of the most intelligent people that just made bad choices," Tally said. "They are just everyday people that have a different way of life right now."For information on how you can help Dave Tally, click here to visit the website of his shelter program, TCAA .