[September 30, 2023] I was only six years old, living in a poor area of Louisiana where money was scarce, and you were rich if you had a spare dollar. Walking along with my best friend Wilson, we came upon a $5 Dollar bill lying in the street. “Lookie thar, Douglas, thar’s a Lincoln just sittin’ without nobody the wiser.”
Two Louisiana boys scrambling for $5 must have been a real sight to behold. That was enough money to buy anything, in our minds, maybe a house. Alas, that was not to be. Our local Sheriff was nearby and must have heard our squeals of glee. “Where’d you get that paper money?” Perhaps he thought we stole it.
At first, Wilson hesitated to admit we’d found the money, but where we came from, lying was a sin, and if people knew you had lied at any time, you’d be called out to your face. Liar, Liar, Liar. This was a great shame, and it was right to be called out on a sin. Like a bad poker hand, we folded and admitted we had found it.
The Sheriff asked us what we were going to do with that found money, which would bring us great joy and happiness. We knew the correct answer, but that meant taking responsibility, which was hard and time-consuming. “We’re giving it back,” I said, immediately realizing our problem – find the owner and return his money. The easier option would have been to donate the money at church.
We went door to door in town, asking who might have lost money. After three days, no luck. We told the Sheriff. “Keep looking,” he said and exactly what we thought he would say. The lesson was painfully clear: someone else’s property is not mine, no matter how small. It’s their property, and their losing it changed nothing.
Wilson and I would be tempted again soon, but we knew what to do. The next time we found money, we would see the Sheriff to give it to him. He could look for the careless owner. And we would be free again with nothing hanging onto our conscience.
Sometimes, you learn from your experience, and other times not. This was a lesson we would never forget.
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