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Research has shown that keeping the brain active and learning new skills may be the key to preventing degenerative conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

One way to give your brain some serious mental gymnastics? Lose something important.

I was midway through some quick errands a few weeks ago when one minute I had my wallet in my purse and the next minute I was standing in the Kroger checkout line without it.

I hate losing things. I become obsessed with finding whatever I’ve lost. It consumes me.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I once found a hearing aid my daughter had whipped out of her ear in an aisle at Meijer. My son calls me a “good finder.”

Losing something is about so much more than a physical object. It’s an indictment of my character. I’m 42 years old and I can’t keep track of a silly wallet? Nothing makes you feel like a bigger loser than losing something important.

In a matter of 20 minutes, the cards I rely on the most — my license, credit cards, insurance cards, and worse of all, my Costco card —vanished like a Shake Shack burger at lunchtime. Poof and they were gone.

I retraced my steps over and over. I replayed the entire 20-minute period in my head, searching for clues about what may have happened. I called and went back to each store I’d visited.

And I even dug through two garbage cans. I don’t mind dirty hands if it’ll save me a headache-inducing trip to the Secretary Of State Office.

I tried to remind myself to keep it all in perspective. I told myself that no one had broken a leg and no one had cancer. I simply lost my wallet. There are worse things.

Retracing my steps one last time before I gave up on it for good, I ran into the proprietor of one of the boutiques I’d visited (I’d already called before and visited).

“Say a prayer to Saint Anthony,” she suggested.

I spent my childhood saying prayers to Saint Anthony. Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost and stolen articles. He was a powerful Franciscan preacher and teacher, according to the National Shrine of St. Anthony in Cincinnati.

He’s the patron saint of lost goods because during his own life, he lost a book of psalms that was very important to him because it also had notes and comments in it that he’d made to use in teaching students in his Franciscan Order, according to the national shrine. A novice, tired of religious life, allegedly took the book of psalms.

Anthony prayed the book would be found. The novice was so moved by the prayer that he not only gave it back but returned to the religious order, according to the shrine.

Call it the power of Saint Anthony or social media, but late last week I got an email out of the blue: My little brown wallet had been found. It was at a restaurant in Birmingham, right next door to a boutique I’d visited when it went missing. Someone had found it, turned it in and the owners tracked me down using my license and an email address they found on Twitter.

I couldn’t believe my luck. Not a card was touched. Everything was in its place. I think it must’ve tumbled out of my purse when I dug out my car keys. I nearly hugged the manager who gave it to me.

And for a moment, everything was right with the world. As contentious, ugly and nasty as life is these days, it’s easy to forgot how much good there still is. There are kind people who will hand over a wallet for someone they’ve never met.

Thanks for the reminder, Saint Anthony — and for my wallet.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mfeighan

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