I had just found a cart that seemed to work okay and was heading into Wal-Mart to do some quick shopping. I stopped to look at a display right inside the door beside Dunkin’ Donuts when a young man walked up and stood maybe six feet away from me. He had a buzzed haircut, and was nice looking.
“Excuse me, miss,” he said. My kids say I never know a stranger, and I smiled at him. “Would you possibly have change for a twenty?” He held a folded twenty dollar bill in his hand, “My nephew wants to play the arcade and it won’t take a twenty. I’d pretty much settle for any kind of change — two tens, four fives or a mix. I could stand in line, but I would like to not have to wait that long.”
I almost never carry change like that, but I was pretty sure that I had some this time. Not a bunch, but probably at least a ten and two fives or something. “I just might,” I said to him, digging for my wallet. “Let me see.” I scrounged around in the depths of the big old purse that I had plunked into the seat of the cart. I found it, peered inside, and sure enough, there were two tens.
“I do have it,!” I said triumphantly. I handed him the two tens and he gave me the folded money. And bee-lined it out the door. H-m-m-m-m. The arcade was in the other direction. Oh, well, Maybe it wasn’t the Wal-mart Arcade. I started to stuff the twenty into my wallet when I suddenly noticed that it felt strange. I unfolded the bill and saw that it was laminated on one side. It looked mostly okay, but that lamination really bothered me. The bill was extremely raggedy under the lamination. I was immediately suspicious, but the young man was long gone.
I pushed my cart through the store having imaginary arguments and conversations with the young man. Things I could have said or things I could have done. I pretty much covered the gamut and still came up with the conclusion that I had probably just been stiffed out of twenty bucks. I thought momentarily about trying to use it to pay part of my bill at the checkout, but decided that it might be better to just take it into a bank. I didn’t want to get arrested to for trying to pass a counterfeit bill. I brought it home and showed it to whomever would look at it. Almost no one was willing to state unequivocally one way or another Then I showed it to my friend who works in the money center at Wal-mart, and told her my story. Emma is a sharp cookie. She would NEVER be stuck like that. She held it in her hand, felt it, held it up to the light and finally said, “I’m sure it’s a fake, Mary Ann. It doesn’t have a water mark. And it doesn’t feel right, though it might be the tape they have on it.”
I decided that the next time I went to the bank, I would see what they had to say.
So today, on my way home from Sweet Mama’s house, I took my twenty dollar bill into the bank and told my story.
“It looks fine to me,” said the young teller. “Someone probably just taped it because it is so ratty.” She felt it, looked at it, and then called the other teller over. “What do you think?” She asked the other gal, “Is this real or is it fake?”
“It looks fine to me,too,” said the other teller, “but let me take it back to see what they say back there. I’m pretty sure it is okay. And if it is, we will trade you out a good one for this one and take this one out of circulation.”
For just a little bit, I felt relieved. My faith in human nature was starting to revive. I took care of some other business while I waited for the second teller to return. Just as we were finishing up, she came back out, holding the twenty and looking apologetic.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “It isn’t legit. And I’m also so sorry, but we can’t give it back to you. When a counterfeit bill comes through, we are required by law to confiscate it and send it to the authorities.” She showed me the back of the bill, then and two long brown marks crossed over the back of it. “If it was good,” she said, “these marks would have instantly turned yellow, but they didn’t change at all. I’m so sorry!”
“That’s fine,” I said, glad that I was given some time to suspect the truth. “I was pretty sure that it wasn’t any good. But I’m also pretty sure that I’ve given money to just as worthless a cause in other situations, and this will be okay. It makes me sad, because of the deception and the dishonesty, but it is the way it is, and it will be okay.”
The teller murmured something about, “Never knowing, maybe it is being paid forward,” but I wasn’t sure how it applied in this situation. I gathered my things and came on home.
I’ve been doing some thinking about that money the rest of this day. Wondering what it was used for. Sometimes wishing I knew — but usually glad I don’t. And I don’t know, Maybe it got used for something good and wholesome eventually. I don’t know. But I can hope.
But I also am choosing to just let it go. There were numerous places along the way where God could have raised a warning flag in my heart, or stopped me somehow, and He didn’t. (Or, at least I didn’t hear Him– which, sadly might be more likely.) So even though I am tempted to think of the good that I could have done with that twenty dollars, I am choosing not to even go there. For one thing, I probably wouldn’t have specified it for “good.” I’ve been known to use twenty dollars rather quickly in A.C. Moore or Barnes & Noble or Hobby Lobby or Michael’s. And it is rather exciting to think about just where that money might be going and how God is going to use it. Because I did pray for that young man and dedicated both him and the money to God in those first minutes after the money was out of my hand, and I believe that God can use even desperate people and ill-gotten, misdirected money for His Glory. And I may as well trust Him. I can’t really think of anything better to do.
And so,my heart will glory in a God who sees, who cares, and who tells us “not to trust in uncertain riches but gives us richly all things to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17) This is more than enough for me.