Tell A Tale in 500 Words
Twenty Pounds Lost and Found By Lydia Lighten
I alighted from the train and negotiated the crowds through Piccadilly station on my way to the University of Manchester. I caught sight, out of the corner of my eye, a folded £20 note falling to the floor. Someone going in the opposite direction had dropped it. There were many fast-paced commuters. It was tempting for a student to surreptitiously pocket it! I retrieved it. But my conscience ran back, shouting, “Has anyone dropped this?” I was waving it about, feeling uncomfortably conspicuous, because this is not normal behaviour in our society. It felt like a rebellion against the norm of “finders keepers”. No one claimed it. A voice in the crowd behind said, "You keep it...for being honourable!" I thanked him for the compliment and ran for my bus, feeling lucky.
I thought about some treats “Honourable Me” might buy, but by the time I arrived at university, I had decided that it would be a satisfying sacrifice to pass that lucky feeling on to someone who needed it more than me. Manchester is a tale of two cities – the haves and the have nots. There are many homeless people, moved on by the authorities from camp to camp. I determined the £20 would go to the first homeless person I saw on the street.
After lectures I walked an unusual route to the station, instead of returning by bus. Before long I came upon a man under the trees, on a little patch of grass by the roadside. He was elderly, had an old suitcase and carrier bags beside him and he was asleep. He may have been subjected to violence as he had a large lump on his head. It was as if he were in a different world, with his battered belongings and old clothes; hiding, disappearing in the shadows. Nearby the gleaming BMWs, awaiting purchase in the garage, provided a strange contrast. Aware of students and cars passing by, I was reluctant to approach. I passed, retraced my footsteps and repeated this action, wanting to walk away. It did not feel comfortable to enter his dark, shadowy world. Where was my honour now? Where my revolutionary spirit to change the norms of our materialistic selfishness? I had to do what I set out to do! My honour took me alongside him this time. I stooped, and without disturbing him, slipped the note between his belongings. I hurried on back into the light, bustle and belonging of Manchester city.
Perhaps for a little while the stranger might step out of the prison of his discomfort, just knowing that someone cared enough to do him a kindness. I could not change his world, but I hope I brought a smile to his careworn face.
“To paraphrase Dickens: “£20 wasted on another is not wasted on oneself.” If you ever lost a £20 note, may this tale be recompense for your loss, because you never know what change may happen as a result! [True story]
see more submissions for the Tell A Tale in 500 Words click here