Several years ago a friend of mine lost his wallet while vacationing with his family in New York City. When Dr. Louis Kirtley realized his wallet was missing, his entire family joined him in a frantic search through backpacks and pants’ pockets. But their search was futile. The wallet was gone.
Louis was nearly panic-stricken because in addition to losing credit cards, schedules, addresses and other valuable information, he lost a considerable amount of money. Some unique circumstances had resulted in him carrying over $2000 in cash at the time. Understandably, that experience took the edge off the final two days of the family vacation.
The day the wallet was lost, Louis had taken his sons to visit Columbia University, which is located in the middle of Harlem. While the university’s campus is protected, the surrounding area is not a safe place. Drug traffic and criminal activity make it a dangerous place to be. In retracing his steps, Louis calculated the wallet had been lost getting in or out of a cab on edge of the campus in Harlem and he figured the chances of it being returned were next to zero.
But two days later, when he retuned to his home in Louisville, he was greeted by an uplifting voicemail on his answering machine. A man introduced himself as being a bus driver for the New York City Transit Authority and said, “I’ve found your wallet.” The caller then asked, “How can I get it to you? Let me know.”
Naturally, Louis was elated. However, when he shared the good news, a friend cautioned him, “Don’t fall for that! The money will be gone. The credit cards will be gone. He’ll want to meet you in some isolated, dangerous place and threaten you, demanding a reward.” Louis admitted he hadn’t thought about that and his hopes again faded.
The next day Louis returned the call and informed the man that he planned to be back in New York City in a few days and asked, “Where do you want to meet?” To his surprise the caller didn’t propose an isolated location at all. He suggested they meet at his bus station, a very public place, and hopes were revived.
Louis then asked, “Did you look at the contents of the wallet?”
“Yes, I did,” the bus driver answered. “Let me ask you a question. Why were you carrying so much cash?”
Dr. Kirtley briefly explained why that happened and asked, “Are the credit cards still there?”
“Yes,” the bus driver responded, “I think I found it before anyone else. So everything is still intact.”
“Tell me about yourself,” Louis inquired.
“I’m African American. I drive a bus. I live in Queens with my wife and three children.”
“Does your wife work?”
“No. She decided she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom.”
“Since you’ve gone through my wallet, you’ve figured out I’m a doctor, right?”
“Tell me something. There is a lot of money in there that you probably need more than I. Why did you bother to call?”
“Well, we were tempted,” the man on the other end of the line admitted. “But we talked about it and decided that since we’re Christian, we needed to do the right thing, and that was to give the money back. My twelve-year-old son was right in the middle of that discussion. He said, “Dad, we need to give the money back because we’re Christian.”
Several days later, Louis met this man of stellar character at the bus station. He joyfully received the wallet, did his best to express his appreciation and compliment him for his integrity. Then Louis had to twist his arm to accept a generous reward. Somewhat embarrassed by the offer and the attention, the Harlem bus driver asked, “Why should I get a reward for doing something a man is supposed to do?”
Wow! That’s rare! But what a testimony to the power of Jesus Christ to make a difference in a person’s life! “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Two observations: First, we hear a lot about the hypocrite the phony who claims to be a Christian but in reality lives for self. But I believe for every hypocrite that exists there are twenty genuine Christians who would do the same thing that guy did.
Secondly, we hear a lot about deadbeat dads and fatherless homes. However, here was a special dad who set an inspiring example of what it means to follow Christ. I’d like to see what becomes of that twelve-year-old and his two siblings, wouldn’t you? Their chances of reaching their potential and being genuine followers of Jesus are greatly enhanced because they have a dad who demonstrated in dramatic fashion that character matters a lot more than $2000.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers” (Psalm 1:1-3).