“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habits. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ~Lao-Tze
Philbin was a strange kid.
Called “Phil-bee” for not much shorter than his real name, he was always in the way. At least that’s how it felt to the most curious boy.
Phil-bee was the only child of a widowed mother; they were each others one-and-only, at least until Phil-bee took an interest in girls.
He was nine, a sort of awkward pre-teenie weenie, who had an interest in science and movies and a secret place under the attic stairs. Phil-bee liked to explore, and what’s more, he was darn good at it.
One afternoon after school, Phil-bee took a detour through the park (disobeying his mother’s orders to come straight to their apartment). But he had “discovered” everything he could under the beds and in the closets and was bored as all get-out at home. Phil-bee needed adventure.
And so the park became his new proving ground. Phil-bee saw a group of older boys playing ball on the south diamond. He watched them for a brief moment, but continued on his way. The trails wound between trees and shrubs and circled the picnic area. He saw a couple of old people on a paddle boat in the lake. They had to be old, the woman looked like his mother. She was probably 29-30 years old as Phil-bee could figure.
There were park benches in the distance. And there appeared to be an elderly gentleman on the last bench. As Phil-bee strolled the trail, looking at the birds in the tree and the geese on the lake, the old man had gotten up and shuffled down the path.
The boy tried to imitate the bird in the nearest tree, having found a new sounding whistle. Pursing his lip, Phil-bee blew, but couldn’t repeat the noise. He headed for that last bench to rest a few moments before heading for home.
But before he could sit down, Philbin felt something bounce off of his foot and skitter across the leaf covered ground. A brown wallet peered out from under the dead foliage, which Phil-bee quickly retrieved from the dirt.
Upon opening the wallet, the boy saw a photo identification card of an older man. Phil-bee couldn’t be sure, but it looked like the man that had been sitting just before him. He looked down the trail and called after the man.
“Hey, Mister! Guy from the bench…” Phil-bee squeaked.
But the man was nowhere to be seen. He was gone.
Phil-bee saw that there were dollar bills and credit cards in the appropriate slots, and photographs of a boy Phil-bee’s age. Maybe it was a grandson, the boy fantasized. Phil-bee knew a few things that his mother had taught him well. And sometimes a boy figures thing out on his own.
Phil-bee knew that if someone had found his grandfather’s wallet he would want it returned. His grandfather had gotten very forgetful lately and Phil-bee knew how important his information would be to grandpa. Besides, mom always told him that it wasn’t proper to take something that wasn’t his. They both agreed that those were the right things to believe.
Phil-bee tucked the wallet into his back pack and headed straight home. His mother wasn’t due home for a couple hours yet, but he let Mrs. Burgess in 1B know he was home. She kept an eye on Phil-bee.
The young man went over to the kitchen table with the brown billfold and opened it before him. The face on the card had an important look to it. Older people always looked important to Phil-bee. He had no need to count the dollars in the wallet, and the numbers on those plastic cards meant absolutely nothing either.
Only one number concerned Phil-bee. It was on line 3 on the identification card. “If found call: 555-7823” He headed for the telephone on the counter, dialing carefully to get the numbers right. Phil-bee heard a voice.
“Hello, who is this?” the shaky voice asked.
“Hello sir,” Phil-bee started. “I was at the park and found something that might be yours. Is this Mister Will…William Johns…Johnson?” Phil-bee struggled with the name.
“Yes. Yes it is.” the man sounded relieved. “You found my wallet?” the man asked.
“Yes. Mr Johnson. I have it here and I didn’t take anything or nothing. I just knew you’d want it back.” Phil-bee sounded older than his years at that moment.
“Is there someone there with you?” Mr. Johnson asked.
“Mom will be home soon. My dad died when I was three” Phil-bee offered too much information.
“When your mother comes home, please have her call me back so I can come for my wallet. Can you do that… uh, what was your name?”
“Philbin. But people call me Phil-bee” he said proudly.
“Thank you, Phil-bee” the man said softly.
Mom and Phil-bee and Mrs. Burgess were waiting in 1B when they heard the buzzer. Mrs. Burgess answered the door to the distinguished older man.
“I’m William Johnson” he said as Phil-bee approached the two people. “And you must be, Phil-bee?” he asked.
Phil-bee smiled as he held up the brown wallet, watching the man’s face light up. Taking it in his wrinkled hands, Phil-bee noticed how they shook just like his grandpa’s did. William reached into the wallet and took out the dollar bills handing them to Phil-bee.
“Here, this is for you. A reward for finding my wallet.” Johnson smiled.
“Mr. Johnson, I don’t need no award for finding your wallet. It was just the right thing to do!”
Phil-bee looked over toward his mother and saw the smile spreading across her face. Mr. Johnson smiled too.
“You have an extraordinary young man here” Johnson told Phil-bee’s mom.
Mom just smiled more brightly.
“Yes, I certainly do!”