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Lawrence D. Elliott Headshot

A Higher Purpose

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This week, I stopped at a Fresh & Easy food store to grab something quick for lunch. I love shopping at this chain because each store is filled with a large variety of wholesome and delicious food, making it so much easier for me to eat healthier. They deliver great customer service without the slightest hint that you may be bothering them. In fact, they seem to love it! And this is just another reason to love them.

As I approached the store entrance, I was greeted by two nice looking young men manning a donation station for Drug Abuse Resistance Education, more commonly known as D. A. R. E.. Founded by the late Los Angeles Police Chief Darrel F. Gates in 1984, the organization seeks to prevent the use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs, and violent behavior of young people.

According to the D.A.R.E. website, their mission is "Teaching students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives."

The D.A.R.E. Vision is "A world in which students everywhere are empowered to respect others and choose to lead lives free from violence, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors."

I love the organization and support them whenever I can. In fact, as the two men began to ask if I could help, I let them know I'd already made a donation with two different volunteers a few days before. They thanked me politely and I made my way into the store. I was pressed for time and wanted to be back at my office as soon possible.
I grabbed a chipotle chicken wrap and a mineral water, then rushed to one of the self-service checkout registers, something else for which they're well-known.

I scanned the items and put them in a bag, then I selected my payment method. I decided to pay with my ATM card and get twenty dollars back. This would be a way to get some cash in my pocket and avoid the idiotic transaction fee many systems charge us to get access to our own money. After finalizing my purchase, I grabbed everything and dashed out the door.

It wasn't until I arrived home that I realized I'd done something really stupid. I never retrieved the twenty dollars from the machine's cash dispenser. It wasn't a whole heck of a lot of money. Not having it certainly wouldn't have destroyed my budget. But throwing away cash wasn't a habit I wanted to acquire, either. It all adds up in the end.

The next day, I stopped again at the same store for lunch. I bought another wrap, this time chicken Caesar. As I began the checkout process again, I noticed a store employee standing nearby.

"Excuse me," I asked her while placing my things in a bag.

"Yes," she answered.

"I know this is a long shot," I continued. "Did you by any chance find some money in any of these checkout dispensers yesterday? I think I forgot to take mine out."

"Oh," she answered. "What time were you here?"

"It was about the same time as now."

"Okay. Do you remember which register?"

"No, I'm sorry. I don't. I just know it was in this aisle."

"Okay. How much was it?"

"It was twenty dollars."

"Oh, it was that machine," she said as she pointed to the unit across from me. "One moment, sir," she said, then she disappeared to the back of the store.

It turned out some honest person had turned the money in. To say I was surprised would be an understatement.

Eventually, the employee returned with the store manager, who asked me pretty much the same questions she had. After he was satisfied with my answers, he disappeared for a few minutes. When he reappeared, he had twenty dollars in his hands. I was asked to sign a log and the money I just knew I'd never see again was returned to me.

As I exited the store, I walked past the D.A.R.E. volunteers and bid them farewell. The two young men replied, "Have a great day, Sir."

"Thanks," I answered. "Much success with the fundraising, guys."

As I arrived at my car, I had this strange feeling in my gut. I turned back and looked at the young volunteers. I placed my lunch on the passenger seat of my car and made my way back to them. As I arrived, I handed one of them the money, then said, "Yesterday, I lost this. Today, it returned to me. I think you can use it better than I can."

For my donation, they insisted I take one of their Scratch and Win Fundraising for D.A.R.E. cards. They wouldn't take "no" for an answer because they're held accountable for every penny they collect. I took it and walked away thinking about what the heck had just happened.

The day before, I'd lost twenty dollars and it really bothered me. But on this new day, it was no longer important. In fact, I didn't feel right keeping it. And there was no reason I shouldn't have. I'd earned it honestly. But I believed it was "found" for a higher purpose. And now that purpose was served.

If you would like to learn how you can help D.A.R.E. in keeping kids safe from drugs and violence, please visit their website: http://www.dare.org