A stingy rich man mocks his maid when she asks him for a bonus and takes a few days off to see her grandchild but regrets it when he sees her receipts.
Ryan Johnson was a successful man and a wealthy one, and he was proud that he knew how much he was worth to the cent and how to get good value out of every single dollar.
Ryan never bought anything at full price if he could get a discount, and getting something for free — no matter what it was — was even better. As for giving anything away, forget it! Ryan was tight-fisted and small-hearted, to the despair of his wife.
Ryan and his wife had been married for thirty years, and that was how long Oliva Fenton had been working for them. Olivia had devotedly helped Ryan’s wife Meg raise their three children, cleaned, and cooked for three decades, and never got a raise.
Ryan only gave out a bonus at Christmas time at his wife’s insistence and would have been furious if he’d known Meg supplemented Olivia’s meager salary out of her own pocket behind his back.
That afternoon — it was a Saturday — Ryan had just come back from his weekly tennis lesson and he was in a bad mood. His wife popped into his office and said, “Honey, Olivia wants to speak to you — be nice!”
Ryan sighed. He just wasn’t in the mood, so when Olivia knocked timidly on his door, he yelled, “Come in!” The elderly woman smiled shyly.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Johnson,” she said. “I wanted to ask you if you’d mind if I take three days off to see my grandbaby down in Florida?”
Ryan was relieved. For a moment he thought Olivia was coming to ask him for a raise. “Is that all? Sure,” he said. “Now if you don’t mind…” He gestured towards the door, but Olivia stood her ground.
Her fingers twisted together in her apron and she blushed scarlet. “Mr. Johnson, I’ve been with you a long time… And I wondered if you could give me a bonus? For my vacation…”
“A bonus, for your vacation?” asked Ryan acidly. “Do you think I get a bonus to go on vacation?”
Olivia took her courage in both hands and replied: “No, sir, but you’re the boss!”
“You’d think there’d be benefits to being the boss don’t you?” Ryan asked mockingly. “So tell me, Olivia, how much do you think is a good bonus? Please remember that you live here rent-free, and eat me out of house and home and you get a bonus for Christmas!”
Give generously, or don’t give at all.
Olivia looked confused and stammered, “Sir…I don’t know… Maybe 20 dollars? I don’t know…”
“Twenty dollars!” Ryan cried. “That’s a lot of money, Olivia! Here!” he pulled out his money clip and pulled one twenty-dollar note out of the thick wad of money he carried for everyday expenses.
He pushed the money into Olivia’s hand and added, “You be sure to give me an exact accounting of how you’ll be spending that bonus, cause I don’t think you need it! It’s all for fripperies!”
Olivia bit her lips and blinked back the tears in her eyes but she accepted the money. Meg saw Oliva run out in tears and walked into Ryan’s office. “What did you do to Olivia, Ryan?” she demanded.
“Nothing!” cried Ryan, looking injured. “I even gave her a bonus!”
“YOU gave Olivia a bonus?” Meg gasped incredulously, “That’s… How much?”
“Twenty dollars,” mumbled Ryan.
“Excuse me?” Meg said. “I must have heard you wrong…Did you say twenty dollars? That is ridiculous, Ryan Johnson! You are a stingy, cheap, miserly man and you should be ashamed of yourself!”
“I don’t see why!” Ryan cried defensively. “You can do a lot with twenty dollars!”
“Oh really?” asked Meg. “Why don’t you call for pizza and let’s see what they charge you!”
Now it was Ryan’s turn to blush. “That’s different!” he cried. “That’s…” But Meg wasn’t interested in his excuses. She just turned around and walked out which was very upsetting for Ryan because he adored his sweet, generous wife.
Ryan frowned. He knew that four slices of pizza cost $20 dollars, so maybe he’d been a little… tight? “There’s plenty you can buy with $20!” he told himself. Over the next few days, he found himself taking note of how much things cost, and it made him feel worse and worse.
Then Olivia came back from her visit to see her daughter and granddaughter and she was radiant, sharing snaps with Meg and bubbling over with stories about her family.
Then just before dinner, Olivia knocked on his door. “Mr. Johnson?” she said. “I brought you the receipts as you asked.” Olivia walked in and placed a little wad of paper on Ryan’s desk.
“I spent it all wisely, Mr. Johnson,” she said. “For $5, I bought a dress for my granddaughter, sweets for $2, paid $6 for bus tickets, bought child’s boots at a garage sale for $6, and for the last $1 I bought her pencils for school.”.
Ryan felt a wave of shame wash over him. Olivia had spent every cent of those miserly $20 he’d given her unselfishly, and as wisely as only the very poor can. He knew he had to make amends.
“Olivia,” he said. “You’ve been with us for thirty years and I think it’s time you had a raise, so I’m tripling your salary.”
Olivia was staring at him and her mouth hung open. “You feeling alright, Mr. Johnson?” she asked alarmed.
Ryan assured her he was in the best of health and told Olivia that in recompense for her devotion to his children, he was setting up a trust fund to pay for her granddaughter’s education.
What can we learn from this story?
Give generously, or don’t give at all. Ryan was stingy and unpleasant to Olivia but she ended up showing him up with her careful accounts of every cent she spent.
A generous heart repents of its sins. Ryan repented his stinginess and made amends by giving Olivia a huge raise and paying for her granddaughter’s education.
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