While spending this past weekend with my family in Keystone Heights, I was pulled aside by my cousin for a confession. “Mike, I’ve messed up, and I need your help” (not exactly the lite-family-catch-back-up level of conversation I was prepared for). Anyway, my cousin had been in trouble before, and I braced for a story that might end up with him driving away in the back of a squad car.
As it turns out, my cousin had knowingly bought some stolen lawn equipment for his upstart landscaping buisness from a friend who worked at the local hardware store. Now he wanted to set things straight, realizing that doing so could mean being arrested or putting himself in danger by naming the source. The following is a brief play-by-play of the next thirty minutes.
My dad called the manager of the hardware store, whom he had met before, and told him that my cousin was coming by (and why). My cousin and I drove to his house where we loaded up the stolen equipment. We then drove to his bank where he withdrew $700, pretty much draining his account. Next was the final stop, and at this point my cousin’s fear was dizzying. We walked into the store and the first person we saw was the guy who’d originally stolen the stuff. Fortunately, he was busy, and we then met the store manager who escorted us to the back office. We were ready for the axe to fall.
But the first words out of the manager’s mouth were, “I just want you to know that I’m not planning on pressing charges, but I’d like to find out what happened and how.” My cousin was still having GREAT difficulty talking, so I took the moment to thank the manager for his gracious spirit. After a difficult and lengthy time of gathering himself, my cousin began answering questions, and slowly the story began to unfold. After the telling, the manager assured my cousin that he would remain annonymous, and that once the equipment was paid for, we were done. The total was $637.41, and my cousin took the money in his shaking hands and began separating it into groups of $100. Finally he had the total amount ready and handed it to the manager.
I thought we were done, and I was already thanking God for the amazing kindness of the store manager, but just before we got up, the manager said, “Aren’t you paying monthly installments on a tractor mower?” My cousin nodded, his eyes still fixed on the floor below. The manager then handed $140 back to my cousin, and said “You’ll be needing this in a few weeks. Thanks for being honest with me.”
What began in mortal dread ended as one of the most grace-filled experiences I can remember, and I’ll be shopping at Ace in Keystone Heights for my hardware needs from now on thank you very much…