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Honesty Is It's Own Reward

Mary F, California, USA
November 1999

Ihave to admit that I stopped believing in ghosts when I was about seven or eight, when I began making up ghost stories to scare my little brother and sisters. But something happened to me several years ago that I simply can't explain away by saying that it was a coincidence, a freak of nature, or a hoax, and I simply can't find a so-called "rational" explanation for what occurred.

I had been shopping in a local grocery store, and when I came out with my cart and bagged groceries, I noticed a five dollar bill lying on the lower shelf of the cart. Odd, I thought--how did it get there? It wasn't mine--I was very poor at the time and had just spent almost all the money I had in my wallet, didn't have anything left in the bank, either. I leaned down and picked up the bill, thinking that the last person who used the cart must have dropped it there. Suddenly, into my mind sprung the image of a poor old woman who hardly had a penny to pay for her own groceries. That five dollars might very well have been the last money she owned. It didn't really matter whose money it was though, all I knew was that it didn't belong to me. So, I took it into the grocery store and turned it in at the customer service desk, telling the clerk that I wanted it to be returned to whomever had lost it. The clerk looked at me as though I were nuts. Maybe I was, I thought, as I walked away. Why shouldn't I have kept the money? Finders, keepers, right? And besides, I hadn't left my name so I could get the money back if it wasn't claimed. I was dirt poor, just as I imagined the person who had lost it was, and I had two children to feed. I also realized that the clerk would probably just pocket the money. But hey, I had acted on my first impulse to be honest. And I left the store feeling a touch naive but confident that I had done the right thing.

About two weeks later, I was in another grocery store when I realized that I had put more groceries into my basket than I had money to purchase. I opened my wallet, knowing that I had only five dollars (I had put a five dollar bill into my empty wallet that morning). But somehow, now, there were two bills in my wallet, and both of them were twenties! I couldn't believe it. It was impossible. No one but me could have touched my wallet between the time I had put the five in there and the time I opened it to pay for my groceries. But the money was real. Two nice crisp twenties. I paid for all my groceries and took about thirty extra dollars home to my needy family.

Over the years, I've wondered many times about where that money might have come from. But lately I've been thinking about the image of the poor old woman that came into my head when I found the original five dollars that I turned in. She looked just like my poor Irish grandmother, who as my mother often said, "would give you the shirt off her back". She was faultlessly generous and believed in absolute honesty all her life, taught my mother those values, and my mother tried to pass them to me. My grandma, poor as she was, would always send my mother whatever cash she could every month, because my mother had six children and was always in need of extra money. And now I had children to feed and was in desperate need of cash. Maybe my grandma tested me that first day in the grocery store, and when I passed the test, she gave me her last forty dollars, even though she was beyond the grave.

I had a special bond with my grandma when I was very young--and now I realize that her legacy lives on in me. Maybe ghosts sometimes come back from beyond to remind us about what is truly important in this life.

Mary F, California, USA
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