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Come on already, there has to be a parking place up front, I thought as I cruised through the parking lot for the fifth time. Sure there were lots of spaces farther away from the building but that was too far to walk in this heat, apparently I’d rather burn gas driving in circles that suffer a little old fashion heat exhaustion. Oh, wait, yahoo, a space just became available. I pressed a little harder on the pedal and got there just in time for….darn, someone snagged it before me. I watched as a little old lady climbed out of her antiquated car, retrieved her walker from the trunk and hobbled into the bank. I recognized her as a reclusive neighbor on my street, Mrs. Tibbet, I believe, her’s was the ramshackle old monstrosity of a frame house on the corner lot. I almost honked at her out of spite just to see her jump, but then she might have broken a hip.
My terrier, Scruffy, sitting next to me, eyed me as though he could read my mind and thoroughly disapproved of my thoughts. I looked him fully in the eye and exclaimed, “Hey, I said almost, I’m sure you would have thought to do the same thing. She could have used the handicapped parking, oh, never mind,they were full too.”
Finally, a space opened for me. I zoomed into it feeling lucky to not get a speeding ticket for the quick acceleration that nearly caused Scruffy and my bible to slide off the passenger seat. I rolled all four windows down slightly and poured some water in a bowl for Scruffy. I’d only be gone a few minutes.
After I completed my banking transactions and was back in the car in fifteen minutes I noticed an envelope on the ground where Mrs. Tibbet had parked. I pulled over, leaned out to retrieve it and found to my surprise several one hundred dollar bills in the bank’s signature envelope. I counted six in all, and then recounted to be sure none were stuck together. What a windfall! I thought about taking it back into the bank but it was too hot, and I couldn’t be sure it was actually Mrs.Tibbet’s.
“Anyone could have lost it; after all, it was a busy public parking lot, wasn’t it? And I’m part of the public, so I guess the money is mine now”, I told Scruffy as I stuffed the packet between the pages in my bible for safe keeping and zipped the cover shut. People really ought to be more careful with their things, especially money. Scruffy sniffed my bible and gave me another of his infamous “looks” before he curled up on the passenger seat….with his back towards me.
I drove on home passing Mrs. Tibbet’s house where Scruffy and I caught sight of her bent over, her support hose exposed up to her thighs, going through her car, seemingly looking for something. Scruffy glanced at me to gauge my reaction.
“I can’t be sure it’s the same envelope she’s looking for. If I stopped and asked if she was looking for an envelope with money, who wouldn’t say , ‘Oh, yeah, that was my money alright.’ Nope, I found it plain and simple. I didn’t break in and steal it from anyone; it was lying on the ground outside, in plain view. Finders keepers, loser’s weepers I always said.” Am I actually defending myself to a dog?
With a clear and muddled conscience I went into my house, placed my bible on the end table by the front door and went about my house hold chores as Scruffy marched passed me with his nose in the air and eyes averted. Why did I feel like he was criticizing me?
A day or two latter my doorbell rang and I opened it to find a young waif standing on the porch, a lawn mower on the sidewalk behind him. I could guess where this was going.
“I’d be glad to mow your yard for you.” The youngster said.
Giving him the once over I asked, “Aren’t you kind of young for mowing yards?"
“Honestly, I can do it, I need the money for some new shoes.” He answered, pointing to his feet. I had noticed the threadbare foot ware he had on and the patchy clothes he was modelling, evidently a poster child for the area homeless shelter or a Charles Dickens movie.
“I’m not going to let you mow my yard with those flimsy shoes. What if you got hurt? Why can’t your parents buy you some, that’s their job?”
“I don’t live with them, my brother and I just moved in with my grandmother up the street and she was going to buy me some but she lost her money the other day. Her whole social security check. We looked all over for it.” He said pointing down the street to Mrs. Tibbet’s domicile. Six hundred dollars was her whole check, wow. Wait, I’m still not convinced it was her money I found, after all, the waif didn’t mention an amount; it could just be a coincidence, albeit a tremendously huge coincidence.
Gulp. I glanced down at my bible on the end table by the door, still secreting the envelope of money. Of course Scruffy had to be sitting there, head tilted. Watching me intently he stretched up and placed a paw on my bible. Now I knew I had to do the right thing. It was as plain as the nose on Scruffy’s face.
I took a deep breath and asked, “How much do you charge?”
With a sigh of relief, feeling he was winning me over, he answered, “Is fifteen dollars too much?” then he quickly inserted, “That’s for the front and back yard!” I had a gigantic back yard. If he’d seen it he wouldn’t have been so bighearted, but he needed to learn business acumen and how else but by making mistakes in judgment? He’d still be ahead by fifteen dollars. More than he’d have if I said no.
“Alright, but you be careful,” I admonished. “I’ll pay you when you’re through.” I stated. Well that was getting off cheap.
Scruffy stared up at me: was he judging me again? I stared back at him and stated,” Maybe I’ll throw in some lunch and snacks into the bargain, with something he can take home for his grandmother. She has got to learn to be more responsible with her cash withdrawals, next month she’ll be more alert, she won’t be so casual in regard with her material things.” Scruffy raised one eyebrow, shook his head woefully and trotted off. Why was I having this conversation with a dog? Why am I talking to myself now?
Wednesday night I packed my bible up that was still where I’d placed it days ago, untouched, retrieved the envelope out of its pages, deposited the envelope in my purse and headed for bible study at church.
There were neighborhood kids in the parking lot playing basketball with the church’s basketball net. We kept it there for our youth and also the area youngsters to keep them off the streets and out of trouble. I set my purse on the ground by my car door while I locked up. I didn’t trust the unknown adolescents and their backgrounds. Most of them looked like our future jail population: already tattooed and dressed for the part with shorts that had waistbands that fell around their knees so their plaid boxers could be flaunted, at least they were wearing boxers. Our church was in a struggling locality, a textbook place for Christian service, and personal danger, which is why I carried a small mace pen. If I couldn’t win them for Christ, I’d blind them for Satan.
I dashed into the church hoping to be unnoticed by the “gangsta” looking basketball players and found my bible study class. I just loved bible study, especially when we shared opinions and and feelings. It made me feel spiritually close to God being with other believers.
I had just sat down an opened my bible when I heard someone in the hallway asking questions about a middle aged brunette wearing jeans and red tee shirt. I looked down at my get-up, sounded like I could be who they were talking about, except I wasn’t really a brunette, not any more, I was a store bought pseudo-brunette. Stepping out in the hall to investigate I saw a young man from the parking lot with permanent ink all over his arms talking to one of the deacons. The young man was holding my purse in his left hand. OMG! I had left it on the ground by my car instead of hiding it in my trunk. How careless could I be? It had all my money and identification in it, the perfect jackpot for an identity thief. How could I have been so lax?
The young man spotted me, politely excused himself from the deacon’s presence and walking over he extended my purse towards me with this explanation, “I noticed you forgot this outside. You should be more careful; my grandmother did the same thing last week with her paycheck and lost all her money. I would hate to see anyone else go through what she’s gone through this week.” Scruffy’s face flashed uninvited through my mind.
I accepted my purse with immense gratitude and a myriad of percolating emotions. I didn’t even bother to check the contents for missing items. I was positive nothing had been touched. The envelope was still securely mine. The young man had no way of knowing his grandmother’s meager earnings had just been in his possession for a brief period of time. But I knew, and I’m guessing it was no secret from ….HIM…The ALMIGHTY….GOD HIMSELF. I had a stomach-churning feeling I was supposed to be getting some divine message, here in his house, a house of worship. A home for sinners. See, I have learned somethings from bible study. Now it was time to put some of it into action. However I was hindered from immediate action by shame and embarrassment. After all, what was I supposed to say, “Oh here by the way I think I found that money your grandmother lost?”
The next day, before I meant anymore of Mrs. Tibett's family, I revisited the bank and explained I had found an envelope with money in the parking lot and suspected I knew who had dropped it, without giving too many details that would make me look culpable. The bank clerk exclaimed she thought I was right because Mrs. Tibbet had been back asking if anyone had turned the envelope in. She had offered a reward if someone found it but felt certain she would never see it again. The clerk then pulled out fifty dollars from her till to make change for an hundred and handed it to me.
“Oh no, that wouldn’t be right, could you please just make sure Mrs. Tibbet gets this back,” I asked feeling expansive, not to mention just a little afraid of God’s reaction if I accepted a reward from a woman raising two upstanding teenagers with such a meager income.
When Mrs.Tibbet opened the envelope that afternoon after the bank clerk called her she was downright amazed to see that her six hundred dollars had miraculously doubled.
That night Scruffy climbed into bed with me and snuggled up under my arms. Good grief, why do I feel like he’s just forgiven me? He’s just a dog after all. I encircled him with my arms and fell soundly asleep, more soundly than I had in the past week with my mostly muddled conscience.
1 peter 3:15-16
1 john 3:20
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