Some time ago, during a morning walk, I found a wallet a few blocks from my house. I looked around, hoping the owner might still be close by, but there was no one. Just me. A peek inside revealed a library card, a health card and $25 in bills. That was it. No credit cards. No driver’s licence. Nothing with an address or a phone number. All I knew was the owner’s name—we’ll call him Jim—and his health card number. I called the police to report a lost wallet and soon after a cruiser came by my house, picked it up and promised to return it to the owner.
A few hours later, my phone rang. On the other end of the line was an ecstatic woman gushing praises about honesty and integrity, and how there were still good people left in the world. She told me she had to beg the officer for my name and number so that she and her brother could thank the “Good Samaritan” personally.
She went on to tell me that her older brother was born with an intellectual disability and had lived with her ever since their parents died several years ago. “My brother has a small paper route,” she said. “It pays very little money, but he would really like to thank you personally. Could we come over now for a few minutes?”
I insisted it wasn’t necessary, but she would hear none of that. “Okay,” I said, a little sheepishly.
A few minutes later, I answered a knock on the door and was immediately bear-hugged by a smiling man who kept saying, “Thank you, thank you.” Eventually, he let go of me and pulled a $5 bill from his wallet, the same wallet I had found earlier, and presumably, the same $5 bill I had seen when I looked through it.
He placed the bill in my hands with the same force he used to hug me. Meanwhile, his sister spoke loudly and non-stop about her brother’s love of walking, how he didn’t listen when she told him to leave his wallet at home, how they had scoured the neighbourhood looking for it, and how their despair had changed to joy when the officer called. She kept calling me a Good Samaritan.
I felt a little awkward amid all the fuss and said the $5 gift wasn’t necessary. Accepting money from Jim felt wrong on so many levels, but he and his sister were unwavering in their insistence.
“Okay,” I said, placing the bill in my pocket while feeling a little like I had just robbed the man. “Thank you. I will use it for something special.” They thanked me again, Jim gave me one final bear hug and they left.
Gratitude is a funny thing. Being the recipient of someone else’s gratitude is awkward when the person expressing it is, for all intents and purposes, the one who should be the recipient. But Jim’s bear hug of gratitude and his $5 bill turned the tables and forced me to acknowledge my distorted assumptions about giving and receiving.
Dom Helder Camara, a former Archbishop of Brazil, said, “No one is so poor that they cannot give, nor so rich that they cannot receive.” Jim showed me the truth in that statement. More than a hug and a $5 bill, Jim gave me perspective.
Thank you, Jim. Your gift was a blessing. You taught me that sometimes I need to be the recipient just as much as you need the opportunity to show gratitude.
Darren Pries-Klassen is the executive director of Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.