"Look, Dad!" Cried Frank while he was walking through the mall with his father, "A twenty dollar bill!"
"Oh, Wow! Where'd ya find that?" asked his dad.
"I just picked it up! Can I keep it?
A wistful smile broke out onto his father face. He put his arm around his son and said, "You know, when I was about 10 years old, your age, as a matter of fact, I found a wad of cash in a store."
"Wow! Really? How much was it? Did you keep it? What did you buy?"
"Well," he began as they sat down on a bench; "I wanted to keep it. It was about eighteen dollars, I think. That was a lot of money! When I found it, I began to think about all the things I could buy with it. Candy, baseball cards, an eight-track for my stereo…"
"Never mind." He chuckled, crossed his legs and got comfortable. The rest of the family might be a while, and this was one of his favorite childhood memories. "Anyway, I was so excited about that money! I ran up to my dad and said just what you said, 'look, Dad!' I was so proud of that money!"
"What did Grandpa say?" Frank asked. Even though he was getting older, he still loved hearing stories about when his dad was a kid.
"I don't remember exactly, but he said something like, 'Todd'", he lowered his voice in mock imitation, "'Eighteen dollars is a lot of money. Someone is probably looking for that. The person that lost it may really need it.'
"I hadn't thought of that," Todd continued. "And Grandpa was right about one thing, eighteen dollars was a lot of money. I didn't want to lose it either!"
"So, what'd ya do?"
"I believe I said something like, 'finders keepers, losers weepers'!" They laughed together for a moment before Todd went on with his story. "But Dad gave me this look and told me that if I wanted to keep it, I could. Then he said that if I chose to take it up to the counter and turn it back into the store then he would give me a reward himself."
Frank looked down at the twenty dollars in his hand. He knew what he would choose. He would keep the money. "What was the reward?" he asked.
"Well, I didn't know at the time. But after a lot of deep serious thinking, I decided to give the money back. I wanted to do the right thing and make my dad proud. Besides, knowing Grandpa, I had a feeling the reward would be pretty generous."
"Yeah," Frank agreed, "He does give good gifts!"
"So, I returned the money and went back to my dad to collect my reward."
Frank's eyes widened. "What was it?"
"A hug? That was it!"
"Yeah," Todd smiled at his son. "That's about what I thought! But you know," he put his arm around Frank, "looking back, I see things a little differently. If I'd kept that money and spent it, I would have forgotten all about it. I remember that hug more than anything else my dad could have given me."
Frank again looked at the twenty dollars in his hand. He wondered if it would be enough to get that scooter he'd been wanting. Reluctantly he looked back at his dad and asked, "If I give it back, are you gonna hug me?"
"Maybe!" his father shrugged.
"Come on, let's go."
Father and son walked together to the customer service booth in the center of the mall. "I found this money," Frank told the lady at the counter. "Someone may be looking for it."
As they turned and walked away, something made the father turn back and look toward the counter. "Look, Frank!" he whispered.
A young woman pushing a stroller and carrying a screaming infant frantically approached the counter. Her hair was a mess, her purse was open and tears were streaming down her face. "Ma'am," she cried over the noise of the baby, "Please tell me that someone found a twenty dollar bill! I needed that money for diapers and I looked for it and it was gone! Did anyone return my money?"
Todd then grabbed his son and embraced him with a ferocious bear hug. "That, my boy, is a reward worth remembering!"
2004 Copyright, Lisa D. Beaman