Oh dear. Today's project at work is to enter and process a large number of videos that the library recently received as a gift. A family brought them in, along with empty plastic video cases and a rewinder, after finishing the sad chore of clearing out the contents of the house of their now deceased mother.
It was quite a large quantity of items that we decided to keep and enter into the collection. As the cataloger, the lion's share of this somewhat labor-intensive task fell to me. Most of the titles were old familiar classics, some still shrink-wrapped in plastic. The work went more quickly than I first expected and I settled into the flow of it.
Because the little things carry more weight when you're trying to impose order on the chaos of human culture and make it accessible to people, I started to fuss when one video's cardboard cover was slightly tattered and bulging. Bother! How will I fit this one inside the plastic squeeze box that it will circulate in? What is the matter with this video, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"
As I slid the videocassette out of the box to barcode and enter it, I saw folded up paper inside the cardboard cover and had the answer to my question. In my hands was a sealed bank envelope! I exclaimed to my nearby co-workers, and the first bill out of the envelope was a hundred. Then two fifties and numerous twenties and a ten. In my hands, I held $430.00. This woman hid money in the video box, and this became one game of hide-and-seek where the hidden item was not found until today by me.
Instantly, I called up my co-worker who had explained to me the circumstances of this gift. It was her day off, but she didn't scold me for calling her. Did she know what family brought these in so we could return the money to them? She explained that she wasn't the actual person to receive the gift at our front desk. She suggested that the next day, all those involved would pool their memories together and see if we could find out to whom we could return the money.
Everyone teased me about how I should have just kept it and not said anything. Since I do have some unpaid debts, I did briefly stare at it somewhat longingly. Of course, my parents instilled in me the basic tenets of right and wrong, and now as an adult I find the highest ethics in my spiritual teacher's life and actions -- a constant and steady example of what values in life reap real dividends. I find it in his self-giving and selfless generosity to people all across the globe. I find it in the many moral lessons in the plays we regularly perform of stories from his teachings and writings. I find it in the lyrics to his songs. I find it in the core of faith I have learned from him that God always provides for us when we want to make progress and become better citizens of the world.
We haven't yet figured out the name of the family that dropped off that gift which was far more valuable than they realized. Therefore the money went to our library's "special gifts" fund to buy library books. On the same day that I found the money, I had a very message from someone that I had been offering my goodwill. Indeed that was one lucky day. And I consider myself luckiest of all to know that there are much richer dividends in life than what can be bought with the contents of that surprise envelope.