It was about two weeks before Christmas when I had some banking to do. It was that time of the month to pay the bills. Christmas was not going to be a great one far as presents for the boys went, money was tight. We'd be doing well to have a Christmas turkey dinner.
So I did my errand to the bank and came home with my cash and sat down at my kitchen table and divided up the money with the corresponding bill statements. Now usually when the pile of money dwindled and the last few $20's were laid on top of the last bill statement, the cash pile would become an empty space on the table. On this day there was a $100 dollar bill remaining. I immediately felt a stir of frustration, let out a big sigh, gathered all the little piles of money back up again and started over. I did this 3 times. There was no mistaking it - I had too much money. It took only about 3 seconds to realize the bank teller had made a mistake.
I sat and thought about what to do. Yes - I sat and debated if I should return the money. I got up and made myself a cup of coffee. I stood there looking down at the money as I sipped my coffee. The $100 bill stared back up at me. We were poor and an extra $100 would go far at Christmas. I thought of how that money could buy my little boys new boots for the winter, they needed them. I thought about how they desperately needed new socks, underwear and pajamas. I was fighting with myself about doing the right thing. That evening I called my friends and family(who are all honest people) and asked them what they would do given that they were in my situation. One threw out the idea that maybe this was God's way of helping me out, a Christmas miracle of sorts. Every single one of them said they'd keep the money.
I thought about all the reasons of why I should keep it, and believe me when I say - I had a lot of reasons. My boys needed so much. Extra food to get through the month. Extra money paid on the bills of which I was always behind on. So many valid reasons to not return it.
I thought about the bank teller who would have to answer for the missing money. I imagined she would have to take the heat, what it could mean for her job. She was an older woman of about 60 years of age and I was very sure she was possibly very close to retiring. The fact that the bank's books would come up short $100 did not bother me. But thinking of the teller did.
The very next morning I bundled my boys up warm in their winter gear and off we went for a walk to the bank. We went straight to the reception area and asked the young girl behind the desk if we could speak with the manager. She complied and the manager appeared smiling and asked us to follow her as she led us to her office. Once inside I explained what had happened. I held out the $100 bill and for a moment she just stood there looking at it before she reached out and took it. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "I wouldn't believe it if I'd not seen it for myself. I don't know of many people that would be this honest." she said. I replied, "Well this is a lesson for my boys as well. I wanted to show them to always be honest no matter what." I never mentioned how dishonesty never set well with me and I'm easily guilted about the smallest things sometimes. Sure the bank would of never known...but I would.
She then turned, walked across the office to a closet door, opened it, reached inside and brought out 3 very nice suede and wool baseball caps. They were very handsome hats. I thanked her and she then led us out to the teller that made the mistake.
When we walked up to the counter the woman had her head bent involved in her work. She hadn't heard us approach the counter. When she lifted her head the five of us were standing there grinning at her. When the manager told the teller they had found the missing $100 her look of confusion slowly changed to one of visible relief. Her jaw dropped and her mouth hung open. She raised one hand and covered her mouth. She became very emotional, looked at me and said thank you 3 times. I knew right then in that moment that I had done the right thing. I told her not to be so thankful and said, "I had thought twice about returning it and I feel guilty about that." The bank manager spoke up and said, "It's not what you thought about that matters, it's what you did that counts."
On the walk back home I explained to the boys that those three hats were worth almost as much as $100 and this proved that it pays to be honest. And I thought that was the end of it, until Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve, 8:30pm the doorbell rings. I open the door and standing there is one of the tellers from the bank. She smiles and says Merry Christmas and hands me three large gift bags. I was dumbfounded!
I could feel a lump forming in my throat. She then said,"We always sponsor families at Christmas and this year we did 3 families. We had spent all the money already and thought we were finished, but then we met you and your boys and were told of what you did and we wanted to say thank you. We'd hoped you wouldn't be offended so we did another collection of money and went shopping for the boys." Well now at this point I'm sure the tears were running down my face.
I invited her in and we chatted for a bit and after she left, I peeked inside the large gift bags and each one had a set of pajamas, 3 pairs of socks, new packages of underwear, bags of candy, toy cars, mittens, hats and a bunch of other stuff I can't even remember.
I placed the bags under the Christmas tree. I sat back on the chesterfield and noticed how those bags filled up the otherwise bare spots on the floor under the tree. It made me smile.
Later that evening I sat curled up on the chesterfield with my feet tucked under me sipping a warm cup of tea and just enjoyed the quiet of Christmas Eve, the boys were long asleep in their beds. Christmas lights twinkled from the windows and the Christmas tree. From where I sat I could also see out through the windows and smiled to myself as I took in the scene. It was snowing. Big, fat, slow falling snowflakes. Through the snowflakes could be seen the neighbours homes all lit up with colorful lights. Beyond them, the lights of the city and further still, one little lone light caught my eye - the Partridge Island Lighthouse that sat in the Bay of Fundy which has been guiding ships safely to harbour since the year 1791. Ships and fishing vessels put faith in her to always be there to greet them and light the way home. She is constant. Always there. Like the Bay of Fundy - always surrounding her, be it through the soft lapping of a slow incoming tide against the shoreline of the little island she sits upon. Or sometimes crashing high and loud against the breakwater that connects her to us.
We all are in search of a beacon of light in our lives that will lead us in the right direction, beckoning us home where all is good and right, wherever that may be. Truth and goodness in the world will always prevail. Even in our darkest moments, when we feel we've given up, some small part of us, deep down inside searches for that light and sometimes we have to look through the windows in our lives, past the snowfall, past the homes and past all the lights of the city to find our one lone little light. Look inside yourself and once you find it, follow the path the beacon has lit before you. You'll never be lost in the dark again.
May the Joy, Peace and Love of the Christmas season be with you dear reader. May the brilliance of a thousand beacons light up the paths that lay before you in the New Year ahead.
Until the next high tide