Hurrying to the bus stop I stumbled over several tree branches in my way, and I lost my balance and that caused my purse to fall, spilling the contents on the sidewalk. Quickly looking around I sighed in relief that no one was close enough to watch my clumsiness. I can’t miss the bus again. If I’m late for work my job could be in jeopardy, and I certainly can’t afford that. Getting to my knees I scrambled to pick up my lipstick, mirror, and several pens that fell out and quickly crammed them back into my purse before the city bus pulled up. I stood up, dusted myself off, and gave one last glance making sure I had all my belongings. That’s when I noticed it. By the edge of the curb was a folded piece of paper that I had missed. I quickly grabbed it just before the bus pulled up. At least I hadn’t lost my bus pass. I showed my pass to the driver, found a seat half-way back, sat down, and took a deep breath. What a way to start the day.
When I arrived at work I followed my usual daily ritual of tossing my purse into the bottom desk drawer before opening my file folder with daily assignments. I stayed busy for the next several hours but needed a coffee break. I had just enough time to grab some bills and go downstairs to the coffee shop, so I quickly reached for my purse. When you try to hurry, you usually create more problems and that’s what I had done. Everything spilled out of my purse, and once again I was down on my knees picking up the contents. That’s when I noticed it again: the folded piece of paper I had stuffed in my purse earlier. It was now entangled with several pieces of unwrapped gum. As I separated pieces of gum from their wrappers, I was shocked when a $100 bill fell out.
What? I certainly didn’t have or leave $100 bills lying around. I quickly opened the folded paper and read what it said. Was this for real or just some kind of joke? I figured it was probably a come-on, a phony scam with phony money. I reread it again:
If you’ve found this piece of paper and the $100, you have just won a million dollars ifyou call this number immediately and return the $100. Failure to do so cancels the terms of this offer by Dickson Enterprises.
What? I couldn’t take any more work time to figure out what was going on. I stuffed the $100 bill and note back into my purse again, got my coffee to go, and went back upstairs and continued with my work.
Throughout the day I struggled to decide if I should call the number or just forget the whole thing and keep the $100. People don’t just give a million dollars away for finding money on the sidewalk. That’s ridiculous, and how are they going to know that the $100 didn’t go down the gutter?
When 4 o’clock finally arrived, I left work and caught the 4:10 bus home. I couldn’t help but look down at the curb when I exited the bus. By the time I got home I had decided to call the number—just to see if this whole thing was a scam or not. After walking into my apartment, I went straight to the phone and dialed the number. It rang. I waited, my heart pounding faster. Finally a young, sweet voice on the other end said “Dickson Enterprises, how may I help you?”
I stuttered as I tried to tell her I found the piece of paper with $100 and this phone number on it. I had hardly finished explaining when she interrupted me. “Just a moment, ma’am, and I’ll transfer you to Mr. Dickson.”
Mr. Dickson? Oh, great. He’s probably a high-pressure salesman. I hate that!
My thoughts were interrupted when a man’s deep radio voice said “This is Mr. Dickson, and I’m very glad you called.”
I hesitated to respond.
“Hello? Are you still there?”
“Ye-s,” I finally said. “I’m here, but who are you?”
“I’m Mr. Dickson, President of Dickson Enterprises. I’m sure you’re wondering what this is all about.”
“Well, yes, I am,” I answered. “But Mr. Dickson, if this is some high-pressure sales pitch, I’ll just let you know right now that I’m not interested. I think I made a mistake in calling this number.”
“No!” he hollered. “Wait, please wait. This isn’t a sales pitch or scam. Please let me explain, Miss ….”
“Picket, Emily Picket.”
For the next ten minutes I listened as Mr. Dickson explained his experiment to prove to his Board of Director that there are honest people in the city and his vision for helping others. I was stunned. I hadn’t ever heard of anything like this. By the end of our conversation I was still bewildered but for whatever reason I had agreed to come back to his office at 9 o’clock the following morning.
When I called into work the next morning, before I could explain anything, my supervisor informed me that everyone was given the day off because the property management group needed access into the building to remedy an internal termite situation. This was wonderful for me. I didn’t have to take another day off.
The following morning I waited at the bus stop for a different bus that would take me to Dickson Enterprises. After walking through the front door, I proceeded to the reception area and quickly handed the $100 bill to the receptionist. That was when all the fanfare began. A dozen or so people appeared out of nowhere and stood in front of me, all smiling at me. A tall, older gentleman came out of a nearby office and handed me a dozen red roses.
“I gave the receptionist the $100 bill already,” I quickly told him.
“That’s fine. You are to be treated like royalty, Miss Picket,” he said with a smile. “I’m Mr. Dickson, the President of Dickson Enterprises, and I want to thank you for returning the money. You are proof that there are good people in this world who are honest and hardworking. Please come into my office.”
Mr. Dickson ushered me into his office and motioned for me to sit in the plush executive chair that faced his desk, and he sat behind his desk, opened a desk drawer, and took out an envelope and handed it to me.
“Miss Picket, Emily,” he began. “Because you were honest in returning the $100, I’m happy to give you this check for one million dollars. You may do whatever you want with it, but I do request that you meet with me again next week after you’ve had some time to let everything sink in.”
I was stunned. This has got to be a dream. But across the desk from me was Mr. Dickson, and I truly did hold in my hand a cashier’s check for one million dollars.
I smiled the next morning when I called into work and gave my notice that I wouldn’t be returning.
* * * * *
That was a year ago, and today I am Mr. Dickson’s Executive Assistant in charge of The Emily Project that enables struggling students to pursue their college dreams with free tuition and work-related experience.
And it was all because one morning I stumbled over a million dollars.