Spare change – A priceless encounter with an adoring fan

By: Rabbi Dr David Fox

He was standing in the lobby, having stepped out of the noisy banquet hall where the wealthy donors dined on delicacies and discussed their wealth management. A quiet, modest man, he felt little in common with this crowd, but had attended the banquet as a guest of the evening’s host. A little quiet usually suited him well, so he had taken a break to admire the decor and solitude. Looking around, he saw a well-dressed, portly fellow moving towards him, beaming. Dapper and confident, the portly fellow strode over and pumped the quiet man’s hand with vigor, saying, “Mr. Harry Brown! Mr. Harry Brown! The famous, the one and only. So wonderful to see you again. Great to greet you in person.”

Nodding slightly with a modest blush, Brown looked at the dignified gentleman, inquisitive, waiting to see what he wanted. “Mr. Brown, ah, Mr. Brown, or can I call you Harry… I want you to tell me something!” With a flair of drama and a conspiratorial wink, he leaned forward and said, “I want to know your secret. You must tell me how you do it. Let me in on your personal secret so that I can appreciate you even more! Explain it to me.”

Brown gave a second modest blush, flashed another inquisitive look, then said softly, “Which secret do you seek?” “Why, the secret of your generosity. You must explain it to me. How does a man with your riches, your vast and varied wealth, your busy schedule and demanding positions, so much to do and so many, many responsibilities… how do you manage to give so freely of your money, donating to charities, establishing institutions, funding causes, and personally tending to the personal needs of literally hundreds of families across the globe. Each and every time that I have reached out to you, you have responded to me and my institution with a large check, and always with courteousness, with respect, no questions asked, polite, considerate, and most of all, consistent. I hold you in such high esteem, Mr. Brown… mind if I call you Harry? Such regard and may I say fondness. Your name is a household term in my home, and is legendary in every town which I visit. Harry Brown. Harry Brown. Everyone loves Harry Brown. He supports every worthy cause. And now I want to know, Harry, what is your secret? HOW DO YOU DO THIS!!!?”, he shrieked with excitement almost drooling with joy and anticipation.

He caught his breath as Brown smiled gently at him, eyes modestly downward, yet with an earnest sparkle. He waited for his adulating fan to calm down and breathe easier once again. “So, Harry, since it’s just you and me standing out here, away from all of those other pompous types, I can ask you freely. Here you are, dressed in a plain, simple suit, keeping to yourself, not mixing in on all those endless talks about how to make millions, principally because you do not need to make more money, I want you to share it with me: what is your secret that keeps you so committed to helping out in such royal style even though you seem to live such a simple life yourself. Tell me! Tell me! Confide it in me and I will keep it to myself. Tell me your secret.”

The lithe, introverted man leaned forward and said softly, “It’s because I know something that you don’t know.” “Yes, yes, go on. Share it with me!”

“What I know that you don’t know is that I am not Harry Brown.” The smooth congeniality suddenly replaced by a purple face and enraged eyes, the erstwhile fawning charmer barked out, “Then why the devil did you waste my time? I have no time for impostors like you. I don’t know who you think you are, but right now I demand that you point out Harry Brown to me. I cannot waste my time talking to nobodies. Take me to Harry Brown, I say. Go on now! I have business with Harry Brown. Now I say! Now!”

So he pointed out Harry Brown and went back in to the banquet, a little wealthier with worldly wisdom.

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