Dealing with a Godsend

What to do with $10 found on the street? "Finders keepers" is not really my theology...

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Posted in , Apr 8, 2015

A ten-dollar bill. Thinkstock.

The crumpled bill lay on the sidewalk amid patches of melting snow.  I picked it up and unfolded it, revealing the portrait of Thomas Jefferson. A ten-dollar bill. It must have fallen out of someone’s pocket.

What do you do when someone loses a ten-dollar bill, and you’ve found it? I stood there and looked around. It hadn’t been on the ground too long or it would have been wet from melting snow. 

I was tempted to shout, “Did anyone lose a ten-dollar bill?” But if you make an announcement like that on a New York City street, how are you going to know if the person who claims it is really the person who lost it?

I suppose I could have said, “Did anyone lose some money?” and then make them guess the amount. But who would want to bother with a game like that on a Saturday afternoon?

A woman walked by. “Did you lose any money?” I held it up for her to inspect.

She looked at the portrait of Thomas Jefferson and was impressed, but shook her head. “I wish I did lose it,” she said. “But I didn’t.  You should keep it. Finders keepers…”

I shrugged. Finders keepers, losers weepers? That’s not really my theology. Didn’t Jesus say, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth?” No gloating over losers.   

As an editor I’ve never gone for stories about people who find money when they particularly need it. I’ve always thought, “But what about the person who lost that money?” 

God answers prayers, yes, but I can’t see him subtracting from one column to add to another. God’s blessings aren’t part of a zero-sum game. No “you lose, I win.” In God’s world we all win.

I stood on that street corner and thought about all the blessings I had been given. Good health, a wonderful family, work I love, a roof over my head, food in the refrigerator. Could I use an extra ten? Of course, I could. But it would be just extra.

Give it away, I thought. It’s not really yours. That’d be fun. Over the next few days I’d find people I could give some of the money to: the guy who plays the accordion on the subway platform, the kid selling candy to support his basketball team, the beggar with the empty cup, the offering plate.

I waited for a few moments longer, just to see if anybody would come to claim this heavenly largesse. I prayed that whoever it was could manage okay without it. Then I headed home.  

What do you do with a Godsend? Give it away. I had a good time giving away ten singles. But then they weren’t really mine. 

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