It was a Friday at 11 a.m. and I had only had one Diet Coke. Anybody who knows or works with me will tell you I’m rarely seen without one. I was coming out of the grocery store stocked up on my favorite soft drink and a few other items. While I was returning my cart to a rack in the parking lot, something caught my eye. I picked up what turned out to be a class ring. A 60-year-old class ring from the University of Mississippi, more popularly known as Ole Miss.

I started to take the ring into the store, but I feared it would end up in a drawer. I decided I would try and find the owner.

The 1961 class ring had an insignia on the stone. I thought it might represent a fraternity or the Masons. I texted a photo of the ring to a couple of friends to see if they could identify it. One of those people included Carolina Journal Opinion Editor Ray Nothstine, an alumnus of Ole Miss.

Then I noticed the inside of the ring had three initials. They had faded over the years, as have my eyes, but my wife was able to make out “D.R.E.”

I told Nothstine the initials and he went to work. He was able to track down the 1961 Ole Miss yearbook online. He looked up the “E” names for the senior class and determined the ring probably belonged to Donald Ray Edwards. He’s now 82 and originally from a town 15 miles from the Oxford, Mississippi campus. Edwards was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. We checked the online phone listings, and it appeared someone with that name had lived in Raleigh as of five years ago.

“Dallas was very motivated on making sure the ring was returned to its owner. I was glad to help,” said Nothstine. “Being that he was an Ole Miss guy, I felt a connection.”

Unfortunately, the number listed did not work.

So, I searched online and found a contact at the Ole Miss Alumni Association. I asked for their help in tracking him down.

While I waited, I started thinking that, if Edwards has been living in North Carolina for several years, he probably was registered to vote. I used the State Board of Elections voter search tool.

I found nine Donald Ray Edwards registered to vote in North Carolina, but only one in Raleigh. He lived only a couple of miles from my house and the grocery store. I decided to just drive over. As I headed out, I received a call. It was Mr. Edwards, and he lived at the address I was driving toward. He had already been contacted by the alumni group.

As I drove over, I reflected on the latest cancel-culture story I had just read. The new editor of Teen Vogue being forced out over decade-old tweets sent when she was not even an adult. Folks under the cloak of anonymity are using the internet to find snippets of bad judgment and mistakes from years ago.

Punishment delivered online by strangers and more and more strangers pile on until a job is lost and reputation ruined. Nuance and personal growth matter none. If someone can explain how this is making us a more caring, loving, and accepting society, I will listen.

But over the course of just a few hours, Nothstine and I were able to use the internet to do a little good for a stranger.

What I did not know, is the good it would do for me.

Then I met Edwards.

“Please come on in,” he said to me as he answered the door.

“I just knew some nice person would find my ring, I just did not know it would be you,” said Edwards.

Edwards told me he had some recent heart problems and had lost a good bit of weight, so his ring no longer fit well.

He had lost it that morning and had looked inside the grocery store.

Edwards graduated from Ole Miss in the Spring of 1961, along with his bride to be.

“I graduated on a Sunday, I got married the next Sunday, four weeks later I entered the Navy.”

Edwards served six years as an officer in the Navy and another stint as a reservist.

After serving his county he made a career as an electrical engineer. He and his wife raised three children, all three of them are graduates of Ole Miss.

Edwards beams with pride talking about his family, his university, his love of country, his sense of duty, and most importantly his deep faith in Christ.

He is deeply patriotic and a positive and uplifting person. I found out we share a love of politics. He knows my neighbor and worked to get their son admitted at the Ole Miss School of Pharmacy.

Edwards moved to Raleigh in 2013 to be near his daughter. He needed some help caring for his ailing wife. He remains positive and upbeat, despite challenging circumstances. For the past 19 years, he has been the primary caregiver for his wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. But he does not complain, and you can see the love in his eyes, a love solidified on a campus in Oxford Mississippi, 60 years ago, and symbolized in part by a class ring, lost and reunited with its owner and with the help of the internet.

“Thank you for returning something so special to me,” Donald said as I departed. “And It was nice to meet you.”

And Donald, I am lucky and inspired to have met you.