Can you hear me, Autumn?” I called through the walkie-talkie.
“Justin, I hear you loud and clear,” answered Autumn.
“Head into the woods behind the apartments. Let’s find out if we can still hear each other.”
“OK. Over and out.”
These walkie-talkies are pretty cool, I thought as I started up the path into the woods. I kicked some trash out of the way as I went.
A plastic box lay near the path, half covered with dirt and leaves. I picked it up to throw it off to the side.
It was pretty heavy for a little box. I figured it must have gotten filled with dirt and rocks.
I heaved the box. It landed with a thud, and the lid flipped open. Several coins fell out onto the dirt.
I ran to look more closely. The box was filled with half-dollars and dollars and lots of other coins that I’d never seen before. Some were from faraway places such as Africa and England. Most of them were packed inside little see-through plastic cases.
I sifted through the large number of coins. Finally I stood up and hopped from one foot to another. I was rich!
I clicked on my walkie-talkie. “Calling Autumn. Autumn, come in. Are you there?”
“Reading you loud and clear.”
“I just found a treasure!”
“Really! I did! Meet me at the apartment, and I’ll show it to you.”
I packed all the coins back in the box and lugged it home. Autumn met me on the steps.
“Look!” I held the box out to her.
“Wow!” she said as she looked through it. “You really did find a treasure! I wonder who it belongs to?”
“Finders, keepers!” I said with a smile. But even as I said it, I knew the treasure wasn’t really mine. Somebody had lost it. Frowning, I added, “But I guess I’d better show it to Mom.”
The box was caked with dirt. “I think I should leave it out here. Mom will have a fit if I get dirt on the carpet. Watch it for me, OK, Autumn?”
I ran into the apartment. “Mom, come and see the treasure I found!”
“Justin, there are no treasures around here.”
“I found one, Mom. Really!”
“Justin, go play. I’m busy right now.”
I walked back out to Autumn.
“Where’s your mom?”
“She didn’t believe me.”
“I didn’t believe you at first either. But you know what? I don’t think these coins are real. Have you ever seen coins like these before?”
We stacked the coins on the step and started sorting them out. We both jumped when we heard a deep voice say, “What have you got there?”
We breathed easier when we saw it was the apartment building maintenance man.
I told him how I’d found the coins in the woods. “But we don’t think they’re real,” I added.
“Oh, they’re real, all right,” he said after seeing them. He knocked on the door of our apartment. “I think you ought to come out and see this,” he said to my mom when she answered the door.
“I can’t believe it!” my mother cried out when she saw the stash of coins. “I thought you were joking!”
Mom and I took the treasure inside. She washed the box, and we carefully put everything back into it.
“I think we should take it to the police,” I said.
“Yes,” she agreed, “but let’s wait for your dad to get home.”
Later my dad drove us to the police station. It was closed, but that wasn’t unusual in our little town. We drove around until we spotted the police car at the auto maintenance shop. The officer put the box in his car and said he’d call us back tomorrow.
I felt sad giving it up. There was a lot of money in there. But I knew that Jesus wouldn’t want me to keep it without doing my best to find its owner. It would be stealing. So I felt good about turning it in.
“I’m proud of you,” Mom told me.
When the police called, they said they had to keep the box for six months. If no one claimed it during that time, the treasure was mine.
“I’m going to be rich!” I said.
“Justin, somebody’s probably been looking all over for that box,” said Mom. “It will most likely get claimed.”
That was the longest six months of my life. I made my mom call every month to see if the coins had been claimed yet. Every time she hung up the phone, I’d say, “I knew it! The treasure’s mine!”
Mom would always reply with “Now, don’t go getting your hopes up.”
Finally the six months were over. The phone rang, and my mom answered it. “We’ll be there at 6:00 sharp!” said Mom before she hung up the phone. Then she turned to me.
“There’s going to be a city council meeting next week. They want you to go as a special guest so they can present the coins to you there!”
Was I excited, or what?
The night of the meeting I was a little nervous. When we walked in, we found out that my presentation was halfway through the meeting. That gave me plenty of time to become more nervous.
Finally they called my name and had me come stand up front. The police officer explained to the audience how I’d found the money and turned it in.
“We need more honest young people like you!” he said as he handed me a “Good Citizen Award” and shook my hand.
Then he held out the box to me. It was finally mine!
As we were leaving the meeting, a journalist came up to my mom and me. She wanted to write a story about me and put it in the newspaper. I was not only rich, I was going to be famous (sorta)!
The next day my mom and I visited a coin shop. We learned that the loose coins in the box were not worth much more than their face value because they were worn. But the ones in the plastic cases were worth quite a bit.
So I really had found a treasure. I thought about the day I’d found it and how I could have kept it right then. But then I would have felt guilty about it. Now I got to keep it and feel good about it.
I felt proud of myself. And more important, I think Jesus was proud of me too.
Illustrated by Joel D. Springer