The morning sun was shining through the windows of the little grocery when Ben first noticed him. He was small and skinny and had scruffy brown hair. Staring at the Granny Smith apples near the door, the look of hunger was obvious as was his lack of finances. Ben slowly walked over to the doorway and, taking the largest apple he could find, held it out to the boy.
“Would you like one?”
The boy struggled for words. “I… don’t have any money, “ he said quietly.
“That’s okay. This one’s on me.”
The boy’s eyes widened and a smile crept to his face.
“Thank you, sir!” he exclaimed as he took his first juicy bite.
The boy went on his way as Ben watched with a smile. He had owned Ben’s Corner Grocery for almost a year and business was good. He was glad to be able to help a hungry child.
The next day, the boy came with a note from his mother thanking him for the apple and promising to pay him at the end of the week. Touched, Ben quickly wrote her back saying he wouldn’t hear of it and gave him a banana on his way to school. And so begin a ritual.
The boy, David, came every day and every day Ben gave him whatever piece of fruit he wanted. Ben got to know his parents and found they shared a common faith in God.
David grew and worked for Ben in the store while he was in high school. He was very smart and with Ben’s coaching, received several scholarships to college, where he went on to study law. Ben missed him terribly, but was as proud of him as his own son. He heard from David’s mother that he had gotten a position at a prestigious law firm right out of college and was making very good money.
One night, Ben was awakened by the telephone. He blinked at the clock, which read 4:45 am. There had been a fire at his store and he needed to come quickly. With his heart racing almost as fast as his car, he sped toward the store, his entire life’s work, fearing the worst.
As he pulled up to the store, he stared in shock. Everything was gone. What wasn’t burned was flooded by the firefighter’s hoses. He answered the policeman’s questions for over an hour before they released him to go home. There was nothing more to do anyway. He held his tears until he got back into his car and then let them come. What would he do now? Business had waned over the last few years and he had dropped his insurance. It would cost thousands of dollars to rebuild and he just didn’t have it. Thoughts of bankruptcy and even homelessness raced through his mind.
Spending the better part of the next day in bed, Ben finally dragged himself up and made some coffee. It left a bitter taste in his mouth. The phone rang; he was needed down at the store again. The thought of seeing his beloved little store burned to the ground nearly turned his stomach, but he knew he had to go.
The charred ruins seemed much more severe in the daylight. As he surveyed the damage, something bright caught his eye. He walked over and saw a fruit basket sitting in front of what used to be the door. Ben frowned as he pulled open an envelope that was attached to it. Inside was a short note:
“It’s time for you to reap what you have so generously sown. Enjoy the fruit of your labor. Love, David”
He gasped as he pulled out a check for $50,000. Stunned, he took a deep breath and noticed a young man with scruffy brown hair standing near the corner. He smiled as he took a bite of an apple. Ben blinked through his tears as he ran to embrace him.
“But David, how can you—“
“Don’t worry about it,” David interrupted. “I can. You gave your life to me when I was growing up…now I want to give it back to you.”
The little store was reopened eight months later, but with one slight change. The sign in front now reads “The Harvest” and Ben is more than happy to explain to everyone exactly what it means.
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