Instead of the usual 365 days, this year we have the gift of 366 days. How am I going to be a good steward of this extra 24 hours?
It had been some time since Jack had seen the old man. College, girls, career, and life itself got in the way. In fact, Jack had moved clear across the country in pursuit of his dreams. There, in the rush of his busy life, Jack had little time to think about the past and often no time to spend with his wife and son. He was working on his future, and nothing could stop him.
Over the phone, his mother told him the news: “Mr. Belser died last night. The funeral is Wednesday.” Memories flashed through his mind like an old newsreel as he sat quietly remembering his childhood days.
“Jack, did you hear me?”
“Oh, sorry, Mom. Yes, I heard you,” came Jack’s reply. “It’s been so long since I thought of him. I’m sorry, but I honestly thought he died years ago,” he admitted.
“Well, he didn’t forget you. Every time I saw him he’d ask how you were doing. He’d reminisce about the many days you spent over ‘his side of the fence’ as he put it.”
“I loved that old house he lived in.” Jack could picture it clearly.
“You know, Jack, after your father died, Mr. Belser stepped in to make sure you had a man’s influence in your life,” Mom said.
“Yeah, he’s the one who taught me carpentry. I wouldn’t be in this business if it weren’t for him. He spent a lot of time teaching me things he thought were important… Mom, I’ll be there for the funeral,” Jack decided.
As busy as he was, he kept his word. Jack caught the next flight to his hometown. Mr. Belser’s funeral was small and uneventful. He had no children of his own, and most of his relatives had passed away.
The night before he had to return home, Jack and his Mom stopped by to see the old house next door one more time.
Standing in the doorway, Jack paused for a moment. It was like crossing over into another dimension, a leap through space and time. The house was exactly as he remembered. Every step held memories. Every picture, every piece of furniture… Jack stopped suddenly.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” his Mom asked.
“The box is gone.”
“There was a small gold box that he kept locked on top of his desk,” explained Jack, his eyes searching the room. “I must have asked him a thousand times what was inside. All he’d ever tell me was ‘It’s the thing I value most.’”
But it was gone. Everything about the house was exactly how Jack remembered it, except for the box. He figured someone from the Belser family had taken it.
“Now I’ll never know what was so valuable to him,” Jack said.
Two weeks passed. Jack had returned home and dove back into his work. Arriving at his house from work one day, Jack discovered a note in his mailbox indicating a parcel was waiting for him at the post office. First thing the next morning, Jack retrieved the package. The small box was old and looked like it had been mailed a hundred years ago. The handwriting was difficult to read, but the return address caught his attention: “From Mr. Harold Belser.” Jack took the box out to his car and ripped open the package. There inside was the gold box and an envelope. Jack’s hands shook as he read the note inside.
Upon my death, please forward this box and its contents
to Jack Bennett. It’s the thing I valued most in my life.
A small key was taped to the letter. His heart racing, tears filling his eyes, Jack carefully unlocked the box. There inside he found a beautiful gold pocket watch.
Running his fingers slowly over the finely etched casing, he unlatched the cover. Inside he found these words engraved:
Jack, thank you for your time! Harold Belser.
“The thing he valued most was… my time,” Jack breathed.
He held the watch for a few minutes, then called his office and cleared his appointments for the next two days. “Why?” Janet, his assistant asked.
“I need some time to spend with my family,” he said. “And, by the way, Janet, thanks for your time!”
(Sent to me in 2005 via an email from a friend.)