The Twenty-Dollar Bill

When we lived in St. Louis I taught kindergarten sunday school. At the beginning of class, as in many sunday schools, first we took attendance and then we collected a little something for charity.

On one particular day we passed the small donation envelope around the room. Quarters fell in, dimes, on top of one another, ‘clink, clink . . . clink.’

It was little Lauren’s turn. She had found a twenty-dollar bill at a store earlier that week and had turned it in to the store’s ‘lost and found’. After a few days the store called her parents to tell them that no one had claimed it, and that she should return for it.

Quiet, funny, five-year old Lauren did not buy Barbies and she did not buy gum with that money. Instead, she put the twenty-dollar bill in the little envelope.

Because that was the best thing she could think to do with it.

And when we saw her put that twenty-dollar bill on top of all the quarters, dimes and nickels, her mother cried. Her father cried.

Her teacher cried (oh yeah, that was me).

So. Things are lost and things are found.

In the book of Deuteronomy where such things as war brides and capital offenses are discussed, there is a discussion of losing and finding:

“If you see your fellow’s ox or sheep gone astray, do not ignore it. You must take it back to your fellow. If your fellow does not live near you or you do not know who he is, then you shall bring it home and it shall remain with you until your fellow claims it; then you shall give it back to him.”

By the way, this applies to anything lost: donkeys, mittens, children–and marbles. We learn that we have an inherent responsibility for that which belongs to others.

We are responsible to and for each other, and each other’s material things.

Let me share another story. A rabbi comes upon two merchants in the road. They hand him a sheaf of wheat and ask him to hold it until they return. Seven years pass and the merchants call upon the rabbi at his home. They ask him, where is their sheaf of wheat. He steps aside and gestures at two silos in the distance.

In those seven years, the rabbi had planted the wheat, had cared for it, harvested it, replanted, re-harvested and so on….

It would seem as though we are not only responsible for the keeping of another’s things – but also for their increase. It’s interesting to note that we do have the ability – each of us – to be a leader in action…to be remembered whenever we take the time to pause to reflect on the type of person that we are, have been and want to be…

Here we are being handed a message. We are entrusted with the the care of each other. We are charged with enriching our community and fostering the spirit of those around us all. We hold in our own hearts the hopes and dreams and secrets and feelings of our neighbors, friends and families.

They are not ours to keep, really.

Our job is just to be aware of it all, and to hold it for a while, and to treasure all this fabulous trust. It is really not about us; we are just the ‘bookmarks’; we watch over, harvest, re-sow, re-water until the amazingness of those around us has grown tenfold.

After which, it is time for us to give it back…

Give back to others that which had been entrusted to us—the part we were holding—for them.

Because we all have an inherent responsibility: that we will take care of one another.

So…we need to think about all that we have been entrusted with. Whatever we do—each of us –affects others, in the same way that the beating of a butterfly’s wings can affect our weather (or so they say) or that a waterfall’s movement affects everything downstream.

And one day, with the movement of the river of life, at the beginning of one little class in one little city, a five-year old may give twenty dollars to charity…

…because that is the very best thing she can think to do with it.

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