A Childhood Lesson in Honesty: Returning a Lost Wallet

Most of my summertime childhood playdays have melded into one another, but on one outing, I learned a lesson about honesty that still sticks with me today. My grandmother and I often walked to a park near her home on sunny afternoons. I saved bread scraps to feed the ducks on the pond, couldn’t peel my socks off fast enough to get my feet wet in the fountain, and gazed in amazement at the endless rows of flowers in the conservatory.

One day when I was maybe seven or eight years old, we lingered at the oversized playground. Between the swings, slides, and a nearby bridge, there was always something to explore. One day, I found myself slithering under an evergreen tree. The barren, low-hanging branches looked like the perfect place to make a temporary fort.

As I made my way into the brush, I noticed something black and shiny. It was a wallet! I picked it up, wiggled back out from under the tree, and ran to my grandmother. We opened the wallet, and layers of green bills poked out at us.

As a child, my weekly allowance was one crisp green dollar. Most weeks, I splurged on candy or trading cards at the grocery store, or sometimes I used the money in my little purse to buy my mother a single-stem sky-blue carnation. Seeing so many green bills in one place was mesmerizing. I imagined a mountain of candy and a cascading bouquet of blue flowers. I wondered how many bills were in the wallet.

That’s when my grandmother broke my concentration and said, “Look here! There’s a driver’s license. You know this belongs to someone else. We have to be honest and return the wallet.” At that moment, I started to learn that not everything we find is ours. Someone must have been worried and wondering where their candy money went!

Now I was on a new mission: to find this person whose wallet was missing. We walked home with the wallet, and my grandmother taught me how to use a phone book to look up the name on the driver’s license. We then dialed the phone together and explained to the man on the other end of the line what happened at the park. His excited words ran together as his voice got higher with excitement. He was so thankful that someone found his wallet, and soon it would be back in his pocket, right where it belonged.

On that random afternoon at the park, I learned an important lesson in honesty. I always remember that lesson and try to think about everyone involved when making decisions. Sometimes, what seems like a win for myself may cause a hardship for another, but as long as I’m honest and kind, things seem to work themselves out.

Image source: Flickr