Christmas was several months away on that beautiful summer morning when six-year-old Alan walked into one of the lovely parks in the city where he lived. As a matter of fact, he wasn't thinking about Christmas at all. Nor did it enter his head that what he would do that day would bring so much happiness to many people on the next December 25.
All he could think about at the moment was the fact that he was hungry. So hungry, in fact, that he began to wonder if he had forgotten to eat his breakfast. He wished he had brought some lunch with him, at least an apple or a few biscuits. he searched his pockets, but couldn't find a crumb.
Since the friends he usually played with hadn't turned up, he wandered about looking at the flowers and peering hopefully among the
bushes for a bird's nest.
Then it was that he saw the package. It was small, about the size of a sandwich, and wrapped in cellophane. Feeling sure it must be a sandwich, he picked it up eagerly, hoping ants hadn't gotten inside and spoiled it.
Through the cellophane it looked much like a sandwich. It was green inside, and you couldn't blame a hungry boy for thinking it was something to eat. But it wasn't a sandwich. No indeed. It was money. Lots of money! Alan had never seen so much before. Not in all his life.
In his excitement he forgot all about being hungry. But he was puzzled as to what to do next.
His first thought was to run home and show his mother what he had found. Then he remembered something she had told him some time before.
"If you ever find anything that does not belong to you," she had said, "take it to a police station at once. The owner will probably be looking for it and will be very glad to get it back again. This will be doing to others as you would like them to do to you."
Alan thought about that a moment. Then he made up his mind.
Putting the package in his pocket, he ran to the nearest
police station, which was not very far from the park gates. He pushed open the big glass door, then hesitated.
"What can I do for you, sonny?" asked the policeman at the desk.
"Please, sir, I found something," said Alan. "It looks like money."
The policeman took the package.
"Whew!" he whistled as he counted out two hundred and ten dollars. "It surely is money. Where did you find this?"
Alan told his story.
"Thank you," said the policeman. "Thank you very much. We like honest boys such as you. We will keep the package here for a few weeks and see if anybody claims it. If nobody does, it will be given back to you."
"To me?" cried Alan excitedly.
"That's the law," said the policeman. "But don't get your hopes up too high. Usually people who lose a large amount of money soon begin asking for it."
Alan ran home to tell his mother what had happened.
"I'm proud of you," she said. "You did exactly the right thing. Probably you won't get the money. You may not even get a reward for finding it. But never mind. You did what was honest and good, and that's what matters most."
At this Alan went back to the park, eating the biggest apple Mother could find.
Days, weeks, and months slipped by. Alan's "sandwich" was forgotten. So too was the hope that there might be a reward for finding the money.
October passed. So did November. And most of December.
Only three days remained before Christmas. Mother should have been feeling very happy. But she wasn't. She had hoped so much that this year she might make this the best Christmas ever for her family. But now she knew she couldn't. There had been just too many bills to pay. Then came a knock at the front door.
Mother wiped her hands on her apron, brushed back her hair, and hurried to open it. Alan was not far behind her.
They were startled to see a big policeman outside.
"Whatever is the matter?" Mother asked anxiously.
"Nothing really, lady," he said kindly. "I believe you have a very honest little boy here."
"I hope so," she said. "You mean my Alan?"
"Yes," he said, producing a package from his pocket.
"Some months ago he found this in the park and brought it to the police station."
"It's my sandwich!" Alan yelled with delight.
"Well," said the policeman, "since nobody has claimed it, we are giving it back to the finder. Please sign this receipt."
Mother signed, and the policeman went on his way. Then what shrieks of joy filled the house!
Part of the money was used to open a savings account for Alan, part when to buy him and his brothers and sisters some much-needed clothes, and part was spent to get everybody some extra-special gifts for Christmas. Alan's "sandwich" proved to be filled with Christmas cheer.
What Christmas that was! The most wonderful they had ever enjoyed. And all because a little boy had learned to be honest.