Today's story is also about honesty, choices and money, but the outcome is far, far different.
Murfreesboro Tennessee is about 30 miles southeast of Nashville, is home to about 100,000 people, two Cracker Barrel Restaurants and least a few trustworthy citizens that should make all of us proud.
Last week while visiting the 'loo' at the Cracker Barrel, 75 year-old Billie Watts discovered a purse left behind containing 97 $1000 dollar bills and a picture of a woman and a child, but no identification.
Deciding to not leave it at the counter, Mrs. Watts left the Cracker Barrel to confabulate about the discovery with her husband Malcolm. Upon arriving home, they called the Cracker Barrel back and left her telephone number for anyone who left an item in the ladies room. Minutes later, another elderly woman named Judith called and described the bag and its contents, including the picture.
Mrs. Watts met and returned the money to the now panicked purse owner. Judith offered Mrs. Watts $1000, but she refused. Judith went on to explain that the picture was of her daughter and granddaughter, who were both recently deceased. The money was all of her money and that she was headed to Florida to 'start over' with her surviving son.
Bravo Billie Watts, bravo.
Of course there are those that suggest that this is a made up story, that the money is actually drug money or that this was some scheme by Mrs. Watts to bilk the public out of sympathy. Perhaps. But I suspect Billie and Malcolm Watts know the score. And so does a grateful woman back on her way to Florida.
The Watts family could have used the $1000 reward money, not to mention the whole kitty. In fact, since the $97,000 was all in $1000 bills - and since $1000 bills haven't been printed since 1934 and circulated since the summer of 1969 - the actual value of that purse was more like between $242,500 and $1,358,000 on the collector market.
In their 58 years of marriage, Billie and Malcolm have been through alot. Billie admits to needing her teeth fixed. Her husband Malcolm has cancer, heart problems and both of them suffer from diabetes. For family gatherings, they host their 4 kids, 12 grand kids and 7 great grand kids into a modest, rented apartment. Just this week while researching this story, I discovered that one of their son-in-laws passed away too. Money doesn't heal pain, but it sure can help with the logistics of healing ifyouknowwhatImean.
But right is right. Said Mrs. Watts, "The money wasn't mine. I had no right to it. My mom and dad told me never to take anything that didn't belong to me."
In fact it was one of her grand children, not her, that encouraged her to eventually agree to speak to the media about her story.
I don't know what will be under the Watt's family Christmas tree this year, but if Billie and Malcolm Watts are around, their family will receive the best gift imaginable: a living example of a purposeful life full of character and integrity.
And that is truly the the gift that keeps on giving.