Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 7:42 PM on Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Child's act of kindness shines light in sometimes-dark world

One day last October, while my husband and I were visiting family in Hawaii, I made a discovery that completely altered an afternoon I'd intended to spend finding treasures for our grandchildren on the mainland, and set off a dark storm of emotions.


McKibben Jackinsky

The light that day's events extinguished was recently restored by the actions of a young stranger.

That October afternoon, expecting to get cash from my checking account, I slid my debit card into an ATM machine near downtown Waikiki. I'd carefully watched my travel budget to allow for an afternoon of grandma bliss, picking out items for grandsons and granddaughters. Instead, I was shocked to learn no funds were available. I was even more shocked when I asked for the balance in my account. A flashing three-digit number with a minus in front of it and printed — appropriately — in red filled the screen.

First, I scolded myself. How could I have been so far off on my budgeting? What had I forgotten? What self-respecting grandmother would get herself into this mess? Secondly, I was embarrassed. How could I tell my husband what I'd done? I dreaded his daughter and son-in-law with whom we were staying getting word of my obvious irresponsibility.

Later that day, I viewed my account online. Numerous charges indicated someone had tapped into my account and made himself or herself at home. And then some. Each charge was made in Georgia, a state I've never visited.

That was when the rage set in, plus a feeling of having been violated.

Calling my credit union representative, I explained the situation. Together, she and I reviewed my account. The Georgia charges were for purchases at a liquor store, a gas station, several restaurants and a wild Walmart shopping spree.

How long would it take to right this? I asked.

An estimated 10 days was her response.

Thoughts of what I'd do were I traveling alone flashed through my mind. I'd have been in a mess even worse than the one I was in. Luckily, I wasn't alone, but that didn't ease the rage and helplessness I felt.

To make a long story short, we got home as planned and, between the Homer Police Department and Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, the money eventually was put back into my account.

The leftover emotions, however, were not so easily resolved.

Then came a snowy evening in January. My sister and I had just been to the doctor with our 94-year-old dad. A new medication was needed. I raced over to the pharmacy to pick up the medication.

Later that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I was suddenly struck with wondering where I'd put the checkbook I'd used to pay for Dad's prescription. It's a separate account, one from which we pay all Dad's expenses, from housing to food to medical care. Loss of the checkbook would have horrific and long-reaching consequences for my family and me.

I tore through the big bag that carries everything I consider essential during the day. No checkbook. I ran out to my car in the freezing cold and looked under and behind seats. No checkbook. I went through coat pockets. No checkbook.

The next morning I e-mailed my sister and asked if I'd left it at her and Dad's apartment after dropping off the medication. No. I e-mailed my husband and asked if maybe I'd overlooked it sitting on an end table by the front door. No. I called Safeway and asked if I'd left it at the pharmacy. Another no.

Where else could I look? I was frantic.

Then, not 10 minutes after the call to Safeway, the phone rang. On the other end, a woman said, "I think I have your checkbook."

The evening before, when she and her two children were at Safeway, her 5-year-old son, Ashton, found the snow-covered checkbook in the parking lot and handed it to his mother, saying it "looked important." Inside it, Ashton's mom found my name, but no phone number. Recalling we'd met when I was working on a story about a bear that was repeatedly visiting the family's yard, she'd called the Homer News and found me.

Later that day, the family, including Ashton, brought me the missing checkbook.

There are strangers, like those in Georgia who helped themselves to my account, who will take what isn't theirs. My experience certainly, and sadly, isn't unique.

Then there are strangers like Ashton.

There is no way Ashton, in his youth, could know just how important his actions were. He could have left the checkbook in the snow and gone his way, but he didn't. He recognized it must have meaning to someone and he handed it to someone he knew would do something about it.

An old Chinese proverb says, "It is better to light one candle than curse the darkness."

Ashton's actions are just such a flaming candle, reminding me of the salvation a small light can bring to an otherwise dark world.

For that and the checkbook, Ashton, thank you.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.