“Thanks again, Alanna,” Brother Tolley said. “You did a great job.”
“You’re welcome.” Alanna Johnson could barely keep the excitement from her voice.
Her first baby-sitting job had gone perfectly. She’d taken the child-care kit that she’d made at a Primary Achievement Day activity and played games with the Tolley’s three children until it was bedtime.
Brother Tolley walked her to her front door and waited while she let herself into the house.
Alanna hadn’t even looked at the money Sister Tolley had pressed into her hand at the end of the evening. She’d expected five or six dollars. Now, she saw that it was a twenty-dollar bill!
That’s eighteen dollars, she thought, after I pay my tithing. Alanna imagined her parents’ faces when she handed them the eighteen dollars.
Things hadn’t been easy for the Johnson family since Dad had lost his engineering job a year ago. Her sixteen-year-old brother, Steve, had found an after-school job at the supermarket. And, for the first time Alanna could remember, her mother had taken a part-time job.
Still, the family struggled to make ends meet. There had been no new clothes or movies in the last year. They no longer went out to eat on Fridays or to the bowling alley on Saturdays. Alanna didn’t really mind, as long as their family was together.
But now she could help. Eighteen dollars! That was enough to fill the car with gas or to buy a bag of groceries.
Her excitement faded as she wondered if Sister Tolley realized how much money she had given her. Could she have made a mistake? Alanna frowned as she remembered that Sister Tolley had simply pulled the money from her purse without looking at it.
Maybe Sister Tolley meant to give me the twenty-dollar bill. Baby-sitting three children is a lot of work. Alanna remembered that the Tolleys didn’t seem to have much money, either. But, she silently argued with herself, they gave me the money. I didn’t steal it. Alanna looked around the living room. Though the room had only a few pieces of furniture, her mother had hung pictures of the Savior, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and President Gordon B. Hinckley on the walls. Alanna remembered helping her mother cut the pictures from the Ensign and put them in frames they’d found at a garage sale. President Hinckley seemed to be looking intently at her from his framed picture.
He wouldn’t keep the twenty dollars, she thought. Not if it didn’t really belong to him.
She found her parents in the kitchen. Her mother was cooking; her father was paying bills at the table.
Alanna took a deep breath and told them what happened. “I wanted to give the money to you, to help out the family, but I think Sister Tolley made a mistake.” She swallowed hard. “I’m going to give it back to her.”
Dad settled his big hand on her shoulder. “You just gave us the best gift there is, Alanna. Knowing that you want to do what is right is worth far, far more than eighteen dollars.”
Mom kissed her. “We’re very proud of you, sweetheart.”
When her family arrived at church the following morning, Alanna looked for Sister Tolley. “I think you overpaid me last night,” she said and handed the twenty-dollar bill to her.
Sister Tolley looked startled, then relieved. “I didn’t know where that money had gone! I knew that I had put it in my purse. Then this morning, I couldn’t find it.” She started to cry. “It’s the last payment for something my husband needed. I didn’t know what I was going to do if I didn’t find it.”
Alanna discovered that she was crying, too.
Sister Tolley opened her purse and counted out six dollars. “I hope you’ll baby-sit for us again. Our children think you’re the best baby-sitter they’ve ever had—and so do I.”
Alanna gave her mother five dollars. After paying her tithing, she had only forty cents left, but somehow she felt very rich.
There is no substitute under the heavens for … the boy or girl who is honest.—President Gordon B. Hinckley (Ensign, November 2000, page 52.)