As a teenager, life in South East Massachusetts was pretty droll. I grew up in a small city on the South shore, and spent most of my childhood and teenage years there. I never thought I was the kind of kid to have something as cool as finding a huge chunk of money, seemingly abandoned, laying outside of a small diner. Nonetheless, it happened. And I was ecstatic.
I was walking home from school one day when I was about 13. It was a windy fall day, leaves blowing all around and crunching beneath my feet. I remember wanting to get home so I could put on my favorite shows, have a snack, and get started on my homework (hey, not all kids hate schoolwork! I loved homework time…yes, I admit, I was somewhat of a nerd). I passed by Joe’s Diner every day on my ventures home and on this particular day, I just so happened to be looking at the ground near the ramp that led into the building. I saw something – what appeared to be a chunk of money, folded in half, with a rubber band around it. I remember running to grab it without hesitation and thinking how much money must have been wrapped up inside that band. I figured there had to be hundreds. No, thousands! I thought I was going to be the richest kid in the world at that moment. I began thinking of all the cool things I was going to buy, and how I was going to buy that new Discman I had been wanting pretty badly. (Any kids reading this are probably scratching their head right now, asking ‘Mom? What’s a Discman?’)
I began running full speed ahead back to my house. I had the biggest smile on my face, my overly heavy backpack weighing me down and bouncing in the air as I took long, heaving strides to make it home.
Then it hit me.
This was wrong. It was all wrong. I couldn’t keep this money! This didn’t belong to me, and there was someone out there who was probably frantic with worry. Maybe this was someone’s rent money. Maybe it was bill money. Maybe this was a family’s food money or some cute little old lady’s life savings. I had to return it. I just had to give it back. Problem was…who did I return it to?
I did the only logical thing I could think to do. I went back to Joe’s Diner, and walked inside, although solemnly. Well, there goes my Discman and slap bracelets and having the coolest Pog collection ever; but I knew I had to do the right thing.
When I walked in the door, I saw some people at a table off to the right drinking coffee. There was a man sitting on a bar stool, having a conversation with the waitress. And then there was me. Standing in the doorway, I pulled the wad of cash out of my backpack and walked up to the breakfast bar. The waitress came over and I explained everything; how I had found the money outside, and how I wanted to return it to its rightful owner. She smiled at me, took the money from my hand, and thanked me and said I did the right thing. It felt good inside to know I made the right decision. I knew from watching my parents struggle that money wasn’t easy to come by; but what a temptation it was to just keep it!
As I turned to walk out the door, an old man came walking in, a cane in hand. He looked visibly upset, and distraught. I heard him talking to the waitress as he walked in and I was walking out the door, and I stopped dead in my tracks. He was looking for money he had lost…the money I had found! I was so happy at that moment. The waitress called out to me before I could open the door, and I turned around. The old man looked at me, tears rolling down his face and he asked if he could have a hug. That alone made everything worthwhile. I knew then that I had done the right thing.
He pulled a $100.00 bill from the rubber-banded money and told me that was for me. He said he wanted me to buy something nice, anything I liked, for being so kind and returning the money when he knew I could have just kept it. I remember thanking him about one hundred times, and running for the door. I looked back and smiled at the man, as I made my way home.
I guess that Discman wasn’t out of the question, after all.