Lessons learned from punks taking my money [Time Out]

Time Out quiet times for the youth worker's soulTime Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Adam Wormann)

I was in Wal-Mart a few years back getting ready to check out. I saw money on the floor and picked it up. Apparently there was a $50 bill that someone just happened to drop, and I just happened to come across. I wanted to say that God just wanted to bless me, but I decided to ask the guy in front of me to count his change. It was all there, he didn’t drop anything. I asked for a manager, who wound up being a 20-year old girl. I wanted to do the right thing, and told her that I found money on the ground, and asked what kind of policy there was about something like this. “Do I just hang on to it unless someone claims it? Do you hang on to it for a week, and if nobody claims it, it’s mine?” Really, I’m the good guy here doing the right thing, the least you can do is let me have the money if it’s not someone else’s. Apparently, I was wrong. It goes into what I immediately called the “young girl iPod fund.” She said they have to keep it, and that’s pretty much it. I accepted the fact that I just contributed to this girl’s lunch, and went home pretty frustrated.

A week later, I decided to use this as an illustration for my junior high students, trying to teach them that you do the right thing, even when there’s no reward, and costs you either what you have or would have. It’s part of having integrity. It’s part of doing what is right. Apparently, a junior high girl decided to dig a little bit:

“You just gave her $50?’


“You gave it to her?”


“You just found it by the register and…”

“Yes, I know. I gave her the money. I could have kept it. I didn’t. That’s my point…”

“Adam, my mom dropped $50 of my sister’s money when we were in Wal-Mart. We went back and they said some guy actually returned it and gave it to us.”

“Wait, what?!”

So apparently, doing the right thing helped someone. And coincidentally, it was someone I know. Someone from my church. Then another kid really nailed me.

“Adam, because you just assumed that girl kept the money, doesn’t that mean that you judged her unfairly.”


Oh yeah, as it turns out, the girl didn’t take my money. I was wrong. She did the right thing, and probably had a better attitude than me. I learn a lot from students sometimes. One thing that I really learned pretty well that day is that people are always watching. Paul writes:

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” -1 Tim 4:16

We’re told to keep a close eye on what we do and what we teach. Watch out for who you are. Even our attitudes are noticed, and that’s probably what gets us more than anything else. It’s much easier to control actions. Attitudes are subtle and they’re noticed. Our students see them, our families see them, unchurched people see them…so what are they? Ask yourself what’s going on in your heart, especially in attitudes towards others.

Spend some time in prayer and reflection. Ask yourself:

  • What attitudes are coming out of me?
  • Am I really paying attention to what I’m teaching? What are my subtle messages?
  • When I have an attitude, who is it normally directed towards?
  • How can I change the way I look at other people?

Adam Wormann is a Youth Pastor in Old Bridge, NJ where he’s been serving for the past 8 years. He is also one of the mentors at Life in Student Ministry and the editor of the “Time Out” series. You can stalk him on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted on July 12, 2010

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