by Faith Andrews Bedford
Forty years ago on a hot August day I first experienced what it must be like to be wealthy. Mother needed milk, so I volunteered to ride my bike to town and fetch some.
I passed the school, its swings still and silent. In a little more than a month, I would be entering the sixth grade. As I came to the edge of town, I pedaled faster. I’d been saving up to buy the little horses in Mrs. Bridges’s toy shop window and was eager to see if they were still there. I had only $4.25 left to save until they would be mine.
Ahead was the toy store and there, in the window, was the little horse family: a black stallion; a palomino mare, bent down as if to graze; and their little foal. I had long imagined how the trio would look on my bureau top; I would cut fresh grass every day and arrange it beneath the mare’s muzzle.
Still dreaming of the horses, I nearly stepped on a lump of paper. I bent down and realized it was a roll of money. I picked it up. It must be hundreds, I thought, millions! I raced around the corner toward the grocery store, almost knocking over our neighbor Mr. Peabody.
“Look what I just found!” I said, waving the roll wildly in the air.
“Well, well, well,” Mr. Peabody said. “That’s quite a find. But you need to be more careful with that bike, young lady,” he scowled with mock ferocity.
“Yes, sir,” I said breathlessly and pushed on, a little more slowly. I leaned my bike against a tree and dashed into the store. The coldness of the milk bottle felt good against my skin as I fidgeted in the checkout line. Pushing my bike back toward the toy store, I returned to the magic spot where I’d found the money. The street was still empty.
I burst into the toyshop. The little bell on the shop’s door clanged wildly. “Goodness, Faith!” Mrs. Bridges gasped, her hand flying to her throat. “Whatever is the matter?”
“Nothing.” I grinned, waving the roll of bills gaily. “I’ve come to buy the little horses. I’m sure there’s enough here.”
“My, my. There certainly does seem to be. Let’s count it.”
Mrs. Bridges carefully counted out three tens and an endless number of ones.
“You’ve got forty-seven dollars here, dear,” she said with surprise. “Last week you told me you had eight saved up.”
“Yes,” I said. “But now I’m rich!”
Mrs. Bridges smiled, retrieved the little horses from the window, and put them in a bag. I took it and ran out the door shouting a thank-you over my shoulder.
The milk bottle rattled in my bike basket as I raced home. I dashed through the kitchen door just in time to find Mother hanging up the phone.
“Mother, I found a whole bunch of money!” I shouted, hugging her excitedly.
“I know,” she said softly.
“You do? How?”
“That was Mr. Peabody on the phone. He told me he’d bumped into you in the village. Literally.” I could feel my face redden as I recalled nearly toppling him.
“He told me about your having found the money. Then he told me he met the lady who lost it.”
The heat of the day disappeared as a chill descended upon me.
“No,” I whispered, tears welling up in my eyes. “It’s mine.”
“Faith, Faith,” Mother said as she drew me close. “Mr. Peabody said that when he came out of the bank, he saw a mother with her little boy frantically searching the sidewalk in front of the electric company. When he asked her if she’d lost something, she said that she’d put the money to pay her electric bill in one pocket and her grocery money in the other. When she went in to pay her bill, the money was gone. The clerk told her they would cut off her electricity if she couldn’t pay. She was desperate, Mr. Peabody said. It was a good thing he saw her.”
“No, it wasn’t,” I cried as I buried my face in Mother’s shoulder.
“There, there,” she said, patting me gently. “You need to hush now.
The lady will be here soon. Mr. Peabody told her where we live.”
“But I found it,” I shouted, pulling away from Mother’s embrace. “Finders, keepers.”
Mother just looked at me.
“And besides,” I sobbed, clutching the paper sack tightly, “I bought the little horses with some of that money.”
“Well,” Mother said quietly, stroking my hair, “I guess you’ll have to take them back.”
I sniffed and reluctantly realized that she was right. The money had never been mine. Not really. I knew I had done nothing to earn it. The pleasure of owning the little horses was beginning to dim. The sack grew heavy in my hands.
A few minutes later I heard a soft knock at the door. A woman’s voice said, “Are you Mrs. Andrews? I think your daughter may have found the money I lost.” I peeked around the corner.
“You have the right house,” Mother replied. “Come in. You’ve had a long walk. Won’t you have some lemonade?” The woman nodded. Her thin dress clung to her in the heat. One hand held a bag of groceries and the other rested on the shoulder of a skinny little boy. I had stood behind them in line at the grocery store.
Mother saw me. “This is Faith,” she said, motioning me forward. “She’s the one who found your money.”
“In front of the electric company?” the woman asked. I nodded.
“Yes,” I said slowly, handing her the rest of her money, plus the eight dollars from my piggy bank. Relief spread across her pale face like sunshine after a rain.
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “I was so frightened. I just didn’t know where I was going to come up with the money to pay our bill.”
“It’s not all there,” I mumbled in embarrassment.
“Excuse me?” she said, not quite catching my words.
“I spent some,” I said, hanging my head.
“Oh,” she laughed. “I’d planned to give you a five-dollar reward for finding my money and keeping it safe for me. Did you spend that much?”
I shook my head. “No, ma’am, I didn’t. I only spent $4.25.”
“Then here,” she said, dropping three quarters into my open hand. “Here’s the rest of your reward.”
Mother and the lady sat in the parlor sipping lemonade and talking while I showed her son how to play Chinese checkers. Then I heard the lady say, “William will be in first grade this year.”
“You will?” I asked him. He moved one of his marbles into place and nodded shyly. He looked both proud and scared.
“Here,” I said, pressing one of my reward quarters into his hand. “You’ll need some colored pencils.” I felt at once wise and magnanimous. After all, I’d been wealthy for a moment.
The day had begun to cool by the time William and his mother left for home. I stood in our front yard and watched them turn down the lane. Then I began to pick a bit of fresh grass for my little horses.
Just before they turned the corner, I heard William call out a good-bye and thank-you. One hand was held in his mother’s, but he waved the other in farewell. It was still clasped around his quarter. I could tell he didn’t trust pockets.
Many of us dream, at one time or another, of suddenly acquiring great wealth—whether it’s finding forty-seven dollars in the street or winning the lottery—that will transform our existence into endless bliss. Before you invest too much time in those fanciful thoughts, though, you might want to take a look at your Bible.
Jesus had more to say in Scripture about money and possessions than any other subject. He made it clear that there is a direct relationship between our spiritual lives and our attitude about money. Though many of us see our faith and our finances as important but unrelated aspects of life, the Lord views them as inseparable. He knows that when our hearts are wrapped up in accumulating wealth and material goods, we can’t enjoy intimacy with Him.
Do you want your children to end up with treasure on earth or treasure in heaven? We’ll take a closer look at these money matters in the days ahead.
- James C Dobson
“Finders, Keepers” by Faith Andrews Bedford. From Country Living. © 1996. Faith Andrews Bedford is a freelance writer living in Tampa, Florida. Used by permission of the author.