David Bruce; Money Anecdotes

• A homeless panhandler named Don (who did not want his last name released) begged for two years in front of the Blue Room Gallery, a non-profit art gallery in San Francisco. When his long-estranged mother died, she left him $187,000. Don quickly wrote a check for $10,000 for the art gallery and gave it to the Blue Room Gallery’s owner, Paul Mahder, to thank him for his kindness. Mr. Mahder started crying when he received the check. He said, “We both stood there crying. Me, because I knew how much this meant to Don. And Don was crying because, I think, he was able to really do something big for something he really cared about.” Don said, “They’ve been good to me for years at this gallery, and I wanted to pay them back. I know I haven’t led much of a life to be proud of, and I can’t even remember half of it. But for once, I wanted to do something right.” Don’s life has not been good. He has abused alcohol and crack, and he has been a criminal who served time. Mr. Mahder has been good to Don, who said, “When I had a heart attack and wound up in the hospital a year ago, who was the only person to visit me? Paul [Mahder]. And when I needed a doorway to sleep in over the past couple years, who let me? Paul. He gave me respect and hope when I needed it the most, and he never judged me. He treated me like a human being. That’s something you don’t forget.” Don spent $35,000 on a trailer so he can have a home, and he had plans to pay five years of rent in advance to a trailer park. He also bought a Rolex watch and gold bracelets and necklaces, and he tipped cab drivers $100. He also started drug and alcohol counseling. Don said, “I never had anything, and now all of a sudden being hit with all this money is a shock. Even little things are strange—like now I can afford to do laundry the right way, you know, washing some things hot, some things cold, watching what bleeds into other clothes. Never thought of these things before.” Social workers at Conard House, which helps people with mental illness, are trying to help Don make the adjustment to not being a homeless beggar. Seth Katzman, a director at Conard House, said about Don, “He’s trying very hard to get his life in order, and we want to make sure he makes the best use of his resources. These windfalls do happen now and then—usually not this big—and the important thing is not to waste it. Once, one guy insisted he get a new car, so he did and promptly wrecked it with minimal insurance. Boom, $25,000 went away just like that.” Mr. Mahder said, “There are certain homeless people you just stay away from, but it was clear from the first moment that Don was different. He was real, didn’t ask for a lot of money, was a nice guy.” Mr. Mahder also said that Don “loved the art so much he became sort of a marketing person for us—he told everyone he met that the gallery was great and that they should come see it.” Don was happy to give Mr. Mahder the check for $10,000. He said, “Ten thousand bucks only begins to say the kind of thanks I need to say to these guys. They saved my life when I was at the absolute bottom.”

• On April 16, 2011, a Middle Eastern businessman left a small fortune in the back of a taxicab that fortunately was driven by an honest man. Nigel Lipscombe, age 54, dropped off the businessman in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, and then discovered that the passenger had left something behind. Mr. Lipscombe said, “Another passenger got in and asked if it was my bag on the back seat. I told him it was the last passenger’s and I took it. When I looked in, I could see a laptop and what felt like some documents but I didn’t unzip the compartment to look. I went to the police station and the man was just coming out. [After he saw me, h]e was jumping about with delight.” The rucksack contained £31,000—a year and a half’s wages to Mr. Lipscombe—but he said, “I wouldn’t have kept it. I’ve always been an honest man. I wouldn’t do it if it was a million pounds.” His partner, Doreen Kavanagh, 42, said, “He did the right thing. I could have taken my kids to Disneyland. The girls are 21 and 22 now, but we always dreamed of going. We just never had the money.” The Arab businessman gave Mr. Lipscombe a $200 tip, but added $300 after Mr. Lipscombe joked, “Is that all I get?” A spokesman for Cambridgeshire Constabulary stated, “A man came into Parkside police station at 7.45pm on Saturday, April 16, with three friends and reported he had left a bag with $50,000 in it, €1,000 [Euros], a laptop, and his passport. We took a note and he left the station when the taxi driver pulled up outside with the bag. They all came into the station. We gave the man strong words of advice about carrying such a large amount of cash.”

• United States painter and teacher William M. Chase knew art. A Congressman who did not know art went around telling people about a bad painting that he owned, “Isn’t that grand? A great bargain, too. Got it for four hundred dollars, and William M. Chase says it is worth ten thousand dollars.” A friend of the painter heard what the Congressman had said, and the friend asked Mr. Chase about it. Mr. Chase explained, “He cornered me one day and wanted me to fix a value on it, but I told him I couldn’t do it. He then came at me with a question I couldn’t dodge: ‘Well, Mr. Chase, how much would you charge to paint a picture like that?’ I assured him most honestly that I wouldn’t paint one like it for ten thousand dollars.”

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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