Ben (not his real name) was eight years old.
He came to the residential treatment center from an abusive home with a diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome.
Generally, when a new child arrived, we took his personal belongings and put them away while providing new clothes, shoes, and other necessities.
This policy kept the peer playing field even for all the children.
Somehow Ben kept a secret item in his position without being noticed by counselors or staff members.
He kept the item hidden for eight months, while he participated in a program designed to facilitate emotional stability, and find a foster home that could accommodate his special needs.
The foster home was found.
Ben completed his goals in the program and demonstrated a positive response to treatment.
The day before he left he asked if he could talk to me alone.
He stood in the counselor’s office with his hand in pocket, fidgeting a little bit and looking a bit awkward.
I started out the conversation with accolades about how well he had done in the program, and that I was very happy for him and proud of him for being able to follow the rules and graduate into a foster home.
He looked down and continued fidgeting a little.
“I didn’t follow all the rules.”
“What do you mean?”
“ I came here with a thousand dollars.
I didn’t tell anybody because I wanted to keep it just in case I needed to run away.
I thought I could buy a house and take care of myself —if this place was bad.”
I was quiet and continued smiling at him.
“ I’m sorry I broke the rule, but I was kinda scared.”
“Now I know this place ain’t bad and that you really help people and you are my friend.”
“I’m glad you feel that way, and it was very brave of you to tell me about the thousand dollars even though you didn’t have to.”
“Well… I’m telling you because I want to give you my thousand dollars because then you can help other kids and because I don’t need it anymore and…you really are my friend.”
Ben pulled his closed fist out of his pocket and took my hand to place his secret life line, his thousand dollars, his safety net, his back up plan, into my palm.
My first reaction was to give it back to him, to tell him what it really was, to explain how he didn’t have to give it to me, that it belonged to him.
I got tears in my eyes.
“This is a very generous gift, Ben. Are you sure you want to give it away?”
“Yeah, I don’t need it anymore and besides, I want to give you something big because you helped me a lot .”
I still have his 1000 dollars.
I keep it with my precious belongings, but I would like to share it with you now.
I read that the old Pesos are not worth anything anymore.
I’m here to tell you… That is a lie.