Then a man walks up to you with a coloured piece of paper in his hand, an off-red you think, but it’s small so you can’t quite see. He folds it into a sliver, small enough for the slot on the top of your tin. He does it slowly, not to show off but out of reverence, but it lets you see what it is. A fifty pound note. He doesn’t particularly look as if he can afford it but he gives it as if it recompenses for something he’s earned, something non-monetary, something sacred.
“Thank you,” you beam, hoping to catch his glance which is still staring at the tin. It reminds you of the scene from Ghost where Whoopi Goldberg unwillingly gives some nuns a huge cheque, only this chap isn’t unwilling, just deep in thought. You look either side of him and smile in case there’s a female Patrick Swayze encouraging him to part with his hard-earned money.
The man just nods, turns and leaves, and you imagine his ‘ghost’ walking beside him, telling him he’s done the right thing, that the money is better off in there, the exact words you’re failing to recall. Only this isn’t four million dollars. But, you guess, to some it may as well be. To those it’s going to, that’s exactly what it is.
The tin’s getting full so you walk to your fellow volunteer, Angie, a few shops down, and tell her you’re going to pop back to HQ for an empty one. It’s a 5-minute drive so you know she won’t be alone for long.
As you pull up, you spot Simon, the only paid member of staff, walking into the building. You catch up with him as he heads for the office and swap “hello”s.
He puts his container on the desk and empties it out. You watch the coins roll into a controlled heap and a couple of notes flutter; a blue five, a brown ten. You’re not one to score points but you know you’ve done better.
Holding out your container, you ask, “Can I swap this for an empty one please?”
“I’m sorry, they’re all out,” he says. “You could have mine but I’m heading back. Won’t take me a second to empty yours though.”
“Sure,” you say and watch him cut the cable ties holding the lid in place. He smiles as your coins pile out next to his, and they remind you of the Henry Mountains that one time you visited the States.
“Oh look,” he says, pulling at the fifty pound note. “It’s a cheque.”
“Really?” you say as he unfolds it, “I could have sworn…”
Your heart sinks and imagine it being for £5 instead of £50. “Oh, well…”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s a cheque for…”
“Yes?” you say, hoping for a figure near the fifty.
“Two million, four hundred and seventy five thousand pounds.”
“Please don’t exaggerate Simon,” you say but he smiles and holds out his hand. What you thought was a £50 note really is a cheque. A very pretty off-red cheque from The Patrick Swayze Foundation UK Fund. A cheque worth, doing a quick calculation in your head, about four million dollars.
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