The Night I Gave the Money Away

by Elizabeth Mason

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    Nearly a thousand dollars was missing, and I was to blame.

    After my 16th birthday, I decided it was time to get a job. The search began and ended with a neighborhood pharmacy and candy store where my brother and I had spent most of our allowances as children. The store owner was a grandfatherly man with a quiet disposition. To my surprise, he gave me an interview and offered me the job a few days later. I decided then I would try to learn as much as possible from the experience. Little did I know the lessons I would learn would be about more than medicines and business.

    After working at the pharmacy for about nine months, I realized I had learned much from the great example of the store owner. Many people came to the pharmacy lacking money to pay for the medicine they needed, and he would quietly assure them a payment or two could wait. He knew most of the customers by name and would constantly listen to stories about their latest trip to the hospital or look at pictures of their grandchildren. If an employee needed time off for vacations, illness, or, in my case, a school dance, he did all he could to let us off work, even if he had to work extra hours himself.

    One night, very close to Christmas, I had been counting money from the day’s sales when a rush of customers came in. I put the counted money in one of the store sacks under the counter, planning on retrieving it when things slowed down. For the next half hour, I rushed around dealing with frazzled holiday shoppers and constantly ringing the cash register.

    Finally, my boss closed the door behind the last customer and turned off the main lights. With a sigh of relief, I took off my apron and reached to get the money. It was gone. I muttered a quick, very shaky prayer and looked again. Still no money. My mind began to race. Had I left it at the back register? Frantically, but trying to look calm and unconcerned, I checked all over the store. It was no use. The money for nearly the entire day—checks, charges, and cash—was gone.

    With great fear, I went to my boss and told him the situation. Without a word, he began to search. Tears came to my eyes with a feeling of hopelessness. Nearly a thousand dollars was missing. After a terrible hour of searching, my boss told me to go home.

    That night, I sleeplessly tossed and turned as my mind attempted to solve the mystery of the missing money. As the money stayed lost, I knew I would not only lose my job but would have to find a way to pay back the lost money. I knelt down and prayed that the money would be found and that my boss would have an understanding heart.

    At 7:00 A.M. the next morning a phone call came. “The money has been found,” my boss said.

    With a sigh of relief, I asked, “Where was it?” not sure I wanted an answer.

    “It looks like you put it in a sack and then gave the sack to one of our customers, a man who didn’t open it until this morning.” Never in my life have I felt quite so stupid. Our conversation continued, and I very awkwardly attempted to apologize for such a mindless mistake. As I was about to ask when I could pick up my last paycheck, my boss said, “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

    I arrived five minutes early to work that Saturday, a little nervous and ready for humiliation. However, my boss, whom I expected to meet me at the door with a “you’re fired!” statement, wasn’t even there. None of the other workers said a thing about the money incident. Apparently, they didn’t know about it.

    An hour before closing, he finally came in. The moment I had been dreading had finally arrived, and I clenched my teeth for the blow. Before giving him a chance to speak, I blurted out, “Sir, you can fire me if you want to. I definitely deserve it.” He just stared at me for a moment, then said, “Why would I do that? Maybe be just a little more careful with the money, hey?”

    Tears came to my eyes in gratitude to the honest customer who returned that large sum of money and also to my kind boss who followed the example given in the Book of Mormon: “I did frankly forgive them all that they had done” (1 Ne. 7:21). I attempted to thank my boss, but he walked away and never mentioned my mistake again.

    When I left the pharmacy for another job, I realized I had learned many valuable lessons about business and medicines. But the most important, lasting lesson learned in the two years I worked there was from the examples of those two Christlike men the night I gave the money away.

    Photography by Maren Mecham

    Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh