This article was last updated on the 29th of April 2015 by Patrick Carpen.
For the purposes of this article, the terms “money belt” and “wallet” are used interchangeably.
Sometime back, while I was working at the Takutu Hotel as a receptionist, something on the ground, in front of the desk, caught my eye. It looked like a wallet, but in fact, it was what the Americans call a “money belt”; and I learned this from the girl who came to pick it up from me. That’s right! I gave it back!
As I walked over to the object, I noticed two people sitting on the chair just in front of where the object was lying. They hadn’t seen it. A few moments earlier, a group of English or American tourists had walked past this area – three young men and three young women.
As I bent down to pick up the money belt, I noticed some US dollars in the side pocket. For a moment, I questioned if this was some kind of hoax; but as I pulled the dollars out between my fingers, I noticed that it was very real. There were only a few US dollars in the side pocket, but as I ventured inside of the wallet itself, I noticed something more…much more: I counted about 1500 US dollars in the wallet. I also saw a passport belonging to the owner of the wallet.
I pushed the money belt into my pocket and acted normal. I went upstairs, out the emergency exit and out to the balcony and examined the passport in more detail. I recognized the owner. He was a guest at the hotel.
As I came back downstairs, I noticed the man and a young lady sitting on the sofa in the lobby area. The man was reading a novel. I walked past them, glancing them from time to time.
I didn’t feel an inkling of nervousness to be holding in my possession over a thousand US dollars belonging to a man just a few feet away from me. I remained calm and in control. I thought it would be best to wait until he noticed he had lost his money belt, then step in and give him back, or better yet, take all the money out before giving him back – which I later learned would have turned out to be a foolish business anyways.
I guess I could have said someone brought it to me with just the passport inside. That would work. Sure it would. As I pondered the issue my brain shifted into overdrive. The interminable debate of what was really right and wrong once again broke out in my head.
Related: Why I refused the money laundering offer from Pakistan
A few minutes later, I noticed the man and the girl jolt themselves out of the sofa and hurry out of the hotel with a worried look on their faces. They bolted out the gate; and I saw them return a few minutes later and headed straight for their room.
I figured they were retracing their steps to see where they had dropped the wallet; but I said nothing. I was still pondering what to do.
About twenty minutes later, the young girl approached me at the front desk.
“By any chance, someone didn’t turn in a money belt with a passport inside here?” she asked in a calm tone.
By then, I had resolved the issue in my head; my decision was finalized. I reached into my pocket, pulled out the money belt and handed it to the girl. “Yes,” I said “here it is…I picked it up from the ground over there”.
An expression of joy escaped from the girl’s mouth as she took the money belt, said “thank you” with a joyful smile and rushed back to the room where the man was. As she was approaching the door, I heard her call to the man, who turned out to her dad, in excitement. I had handed her back the money belt with every cent intact.
A few minutes later, the man approached me. He shook my hand, and we both exchanged our feelings of joy and excitement.
That fifteen hundred US dollars could have done so much for me. It could have changed my life at that particular point in time – literally. But the joy I had brought to the hearts of these folks was worth more than a million US dollars: it was priceless.
The man, Vincent Canelo, slipped a thousand Guyanese dollars into my hand, saying “I know this is nothing, but I have to give you something.”
I accepted with a smile. He returned a few minutes later with one hundred US dollars, shaking my hand, he handed it to me.
“No, I can’t take this from you” I said, attempting to give him back the money.
“Yes you can,” he responded. “There’s no way I’m taking that back from you”.
We hugged and took a few pictures. I guess it was a “Kodac moment”.
After that we exchanged contact information and sparked a friendship which was worth more than all the money in the world.
Then it flashed across my mind, that old Mastercard television commercial: there are some things money can’t buy, for everything else there’s Mastercard….