Worth it in the end

A man unknown to me (let’s call him ‘Mr John Smith’) phoned and proceeded to quiz me as to whether a particular person was employed by me. I said “Yes. Why?

John said “Well, I found their briefcase and it contains some documents and a pay packet full of money.” This was in the days when fortnightly pay packets contained cash. My employee had left her briefcase in a supermarket trolley.

John said he did not want any reward. He was down and out, and more concerned he would be accused of having taken the briefcase and the money. We retrieved the lost articles, and I delivered a Red Cross ‘thank you’ package to him at his basement flat. He was grateful. I mentioned that, if there was anything else we could do, he should feel free to ask. He ushered me out the door with a “She’s right mate.”

Time passed. One day John called down to the office and told me that he was in financial difficulty, didn’t know what to do, and thought I could help. 

Aha! Cynicism got the better of me and I thought “here comes the touch up”. He assured me that was not the case… but he had no education and thought that, as I was the only professional person he knew, I might be able to “sort it.” I said I would see what I could do.

Apparently, 20 odd years before, he and his wife had owned and operated a general store in a small country town, but he had not seen his wife or children since then. 

However, his wife still owned the store and they were still officially married.

What followed was a matrimonial property settlement, sufficient to pay out his debts and allow him to purchase a caravan, which his cousin allowed him to live in on his farm. Mission accomplished. John Smith truly was a good man caught in bad times.

But what he had not remembered was that I had negotiated a larger amount, which his wife said she could not pay right away and so we had left it outstanding.

Some years later I got a phone call from a lady (let’s call her Ms Jones). She said that John Smith was her Uncle and had been diagnosed with cancer with 3 months left to live.  He’d asked her to call me “as I would know what to do.” A totally humbling judgement of me and my ability.

John was scared of being buried in a pauper’s grave, as his Mother had been back in the Great Depression. I remembered the settlement I had done with his wife, and without making promises told Ms Jones I would call her back.

I then negotiated an early One-Lump-Sum-Payout of the balance of the property with his (now ex) wife. I arranged for the funds to be transferred to John’s bank. About a week later the Niece called me to say Uncle John had been in and prepaid for his funeral and he wanted her to tell me how grateful he was.

He passed peacefully. It was worth it in the end.

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