I saw it lying in the corner of Judson’s workout room. Apparently the person who left it there didn’t care too much about it because it had been there for a few days and no one had bothered to pick it up. But there was one person who was keeping tabs on it and knew exactly how long it had been on the floor.

“That’s been in the same spot since last Thursday,” Doc said to me. “Would you wear that?” He pointed at the blue flannel before instructing me, “Go pick it up.” I rolled my eyes a little and chuckled just I had done on many prior occasions when Doc noticed an abandoned item in a place it shouldn’t have been. Most of the time, we inspected it and agreed it wasn’t worth holding onto, so I would toss it in the nearest garbage can and we would move on.

But there was something about this flannel that made me a little more open to Doc’s “finder’s keepers” policy. It wasn’t new, but it was pretty soft and the color would be great to start some new outfits. It was also my size and I knew that my girlfriend would like how it looked on me.

After examining it briefly, Doc looked up at me and asked, “You like it?” Not wanting to disappoint him, and being intrigued by the prospect of new clothing, I said yes. “Take it. ” Doc said, turning back to his workout machine, as if the flannel was his to give away. I smiled and put it in a plastic bag.

That flannel is still in my closet five years later.

While he himself might have said that sin was his favorite philosophical concept, I think that Doc’s actual favorite was finder’s keepers. When we started practicing baseball together, I noticed that his glove was a Wilson A2000, one of the nicest gloves on the market. I asked him why he had such an expensive glove and he said “Oh someone left it at the field a few years ago. They didn’t care about it enough, so I gave it a new home.” I still wonder about that poor college freshman who freaked out one practice because his $200 glove was gone; I’ll bet that he has no idea that it ended up in the trunk of an 80+ year old former professor who decided that the glove he found at the field was nice enough to be his.

All of these stories cause me to be even more confounded when I think about how Doc and I met. It was my freshman year, my first two months at school after being homeschooled my entire life. I was nowhere close to fully adjusting to college life and I must have been one of the most tentative people on campus.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email from a “Doc Ryder” telling me that he had found my glove at the baseball field and asking if I wanted it back. I scrambled to my baseball bag and found that my first baseman’s mitt was not in there. The funny thing is that I was a catcher, not a first baseman. I only had the mitt because of the few times in high school when I was given a break from behind the plate. To tell the truth, I don’t remember why I took it out of my bag that day, and I think that is why it never occurred to me that it might not be in there.

The mitt had my name on it so that is how Doc contacted me; he went to his office and looked up my name in the student directory to find my email.

Doc Ryder, the man who lived by finder’s keepers, went out of his way to look me up and email me that he had found my glove.

I would come to realize the absurdity of this statement in the years to come, but I never thought to ask him about it. What made this situation different? Was it simply that I put my name on it? Was the mitt not nice enough for him to claim (it was pretty shoddy)? Or was it that he had a different feeling about this one? How much effort did he put into his search and did he think at any point about what would come of it?

One of my favorite sports that I have taken up in recent years is disc golf. There are many things I enjoy about the sport, but one of the best parts about it is the possibility of finding a lost disc on the course. When someone makes a bad throw, it can get lost in trees or tall grass, making it available to the next disc golfer who happens to walk by. Many people write their name and phone number on their discs in hope that the person who finds it will give them a call and find a way to return it, but there is no guarantee of that.

When I first started playing, I would use Doc’s rule and claim all discs I found as my own. On a few occasions I would call the number once but if I didn’t get an answer, I wouldn’t pursue it any further. I’ve found over 30 discs in my two years of playing, some of them bad discs that I picked up and left in my car, but many other valuable ones, including one currently valued around $125.

It is in these moments that I think about Doc. I know what he would say: “Finder’s keepers. They left it here, take it.” But then I think about what he did for me; the only reason we met is because he disobeyed his own rule and sought me out. My mitt could have joined the A2000 in his trunk and I would have been left to wonder whatever happened to that old thing. I wouldn’t be writing this today.

So now when I’m out on the course, I go out of my way to return lost discs to their owners. Even if they have no number on them, I will post in Facebook groups to see if I can reach the owner that way. I’ve met some very nice, very thankful people in doing so. Some have even given me other discs in return.

I know that Doc might roll his eyes and say that it’s not a big deal – it is just a frisbee after all. But who knows: maybe the owner of that frisbee will become one of the greatest friends I’ll ever have. What if returning the stuff we find leads us to finding something far greater, far more worthy of keeping, than the stuff itself?