Friday, November 03, 2006

Nancy White Kelly

On the way home from visiting an old friend, I chose not to stop by the woods on a snowy evening. Why repeat what Robert Frost so famously did? Instead I stopped by Wal-Mart about forty miles from home.

Christmas is near and I needed to start shopping. Wal-Mart is a bargain hunter’s mecca and I like to save a dollar.

My basket was filled with gifts for friends and family but also included a fluffy bedspread for Buddy and me. It was a nice little splurge.

The clerk had a difficulty scanning the spread. Finally, with a sigh of disgust, she keyed in the numbers manually. Unintentionally, she under-priced the sale price by $9. I noticed the mistake immediately but said nary a word.

I smugly loaded the trunk of my car. It was my quiet little coup. But not for long.

While driving home, an inner voice kept nagging me. Some might call it conscience. I think it was God.

“Thou shalt not steal.”

“But, God." Wal-Mart will never miss $9.”

“Whatsoever is honest, think on these things.”

“It was just $9, Lord. Surely they made more than that in profit on just my purchases.”

“Will you let $9 come between us?”

Throughout the afternoon and part of the night I tried to rationalize keeping the $9. I might as well have robbed a bank. Nobody would ever have known. My children had heard the mantra from my lips many times, “Character is what you are in the dark.” It was dark thirty in the morning when I decided there was nothing to do but make it right.

The next day I penned a note to the Wal-Mart store manager explaining the situation and my need to return the $9. I addressed the envelope, stuck a stamp on it, and dashed in the rain to make sure it went out in the afternoon mail.

A couple of hours later I realized that, in my haste, I had forgotten to put the $9 in the envelope. I dug through my purse. I didn’t have a $5 bill and four ones. However, I did have a $10 bill. That would do.

I went back to the mailbox and retrieved the letter. Using a kitchen knife, I created a small opening in the flap of the envelope and inserted the $10 bill. Mission accomplished. Lesson learned.

Buddy would have noticed the unusual activity had he been home. He left earlier to attend an afternoon meeting. It was almost time for me to join him for our church supper.

I searched through the closet for something different to wear and noticed my mother’s jacket. It was a custom-made, glittery black blazer that I had given her many years ago. My mother loved that coat. When she died, I asked for two things only: that jacket and her cookbook. I use the cookbook often, but the jacket has hung in the closet since 1996.

My dad was the big guy. My mother was small-framed and, until recently, I was much too large to wear the jacket. I slipped the blazer on and, to my pleasant surprise, I could even button it.

With my Bible in hand, I locked the back door and slipped the door key into the pocket of the jacket. Two seconds later the whole community must have heard me shout. Imagine my shock to pull out of the jacket pocket, not one, but TWO $10 bills.

Coincidence? You decide, but I know the hand of God when I feel it.

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