149 South Pine Creek Road, Fairfield, CT

Finding a Five Dollar Bill

Dear Parishioners,

fivedollarbillI received a long, plain, white envelope in the mail this week. It was sent from Hartford and hand addressed to “Pastor,” no return address. It looked mildly creepy so I figured it was either Hate Mail or Crazy Mail. Hate Mail might include comments on a variety of topics from a homily at Mass to the shade of beige chosen for the new fence to a parishioner driving over someone’s prize petunia bed after the 8am Mass. Crazy Mail would address something broader and deeper, usually underlining the warnings of a 12th Century oracle that God would soon smash the world flat because we haven’t said our quota of Hail Marys this month. I took a deep breath and opened the letter. Here’s what was written:

Hi Father, 

I went to your parish picnic in early July. I was a visitor. I had a wonderful time. All the parishioners made me feel welcome. The weather was great and the band was terrific. I was checking out the old cars in front of the church. I found a $5 bill. I meant to give it to the ladies at the driveway table. I forgot. Please put this in one of your charity baskets. Thanks. No signature. Just the folded five dollar bill. But there was more in that envelope. A lot more. There was honesty. Integrity. An acknowledgement that a person’s character is founded and built on the “little things.” No one would have known (or probably cared) if the person had simply kept the money after forgetting to give it back. Or the man or woman could have dropped it into a charity basket at their own place of worship. To take the time to write a note and mail the five dollars back speaks volumes to me about the clarity which comes from living an honorable life, a life guided by the wisdom of knowing just what to do when trying to do the right thing. In short: a person of God’s Kingdom. At a time when an Ivy-educated, hired-then-fired Communications Director for the United States can’t seem to form a sentence without using profanity, when apologies must be made for a presidential address to Boy Scouts, when truth-telling has lost center court to “alternative facts,” when parents are hard-pressed to point to national role models for children, it is refreshing to know that I can add a new category for mysterious white envelopes sent anonymously in the mail: Modern Parables! Whether Capernaum or Fairfield, a mustard seed or a bit of cash, a net full of fish or yard full of Corvettes, the Lord dwells and walks among us, still teaching in parables: The Kingdom of Heaven is like the one who finds a five dollar bill at a parish picnic……

Father John