There was a happy family that lived on the small island of Martinique in the French West Indies. The family consisted of 5 sons and their parents, and they were living in a simple house in a peaceful area.
One day the father got an offer to work for a fancy company in the UK. Although the job description was not very clearly stated, the pay was attractive. After considering the offer for a bit, he decided to give it a try to improve the lives of his family. He shared the news with his wife and sons while they were eating lunch.
“We are moving to the UK.”
The eldest son James asked, “Wait. What? Dad?"
The father answered, “We will move to improve our lives.’’
After talking more about the new opportunity, his family started to believe that the grass would be greener in the UK, and they imagined better versions of themselves.
James spoke first, “Ok, so when will we leave?’’
After they arrived in the UK and settled into a bigger house in town, the boys began to make friends with their neighbors. James was interested in playing soccer, so he played often with his new friends. One day while he was practicing soccer, his mother called him several times, but he did not answer.
She then called louder, "James, you must come home quickly.”
When he arrived home, he asked, ‘’What happened? Why did you call me back early?"
She told him that his father had become sick suddenly. Then they went to the hospital. After several tests over a couple of days, the doctor came to the family with a diagnosis.
“I’m very sorry, but your father is suffering from lung and bronchial cancer.’’
The family grieved and spent most of their savings over the next couple of months to pay for his treatment.
A few months into the treatments, it seemed to the family that there was no hope for their father to recover. Then one day, while the family was gathering around their father in his hospital bed, he took his final breath and went to the other side.
After his death, their mother was thinking about going back to Martinique because they didn’t have enough money to stay in the UK. The mother said to her boys, “We must leave the UK this month. We will go back to our home country where the cost of living is lower.”
“Really Mum? We are used to living here, and our friends are here and me and my brothers do not want to leave the UK,” James protested.
She responded, “Look son, I don’t want to argue with you. We just do not have the money to stay here.’’
James tried again, “Mum, please can you understand me? We have our friends here. This is our home now. We do not know anybody on that island anymore.”
“I know that son, but we can’t stay here any longer, so you will get use to our country in a few months and I am not going to say it again. We are leaving,” she said.
After packing and making the necessary arrangements, they traveled reluctantly back to Martinique. However, when they went to their house, they found people inside their home. The mother knocked on the door very hard. A woman opened the door and asked, “What do you want?”
The mother said, “What do you mean by what do you want? It is our house, and I will call the police if you do not leave immediately.”
The woman smiled and said, “It is our house and I will let the police take you and your kids away because you are on my property.”
The mother replied, “Let them come then.”
When a policeman arrived, he asked, “What happened here?’’
The mother said, "This woman and her family are staying in my husband’s house.’’
The policeman asked the women to provide proof of ownership.
The woman brought a piece of paper that listed her as the owner. The mother was confused and asked, “How can this be true? This is our house. I lived here for more than 5 years!”
The policeman said, “Sorry Ma’am, you have to leave the property, or I will take you to the jail.”
After that happened, the mother called her husband’s best friend and frantically asked, “Did my husband sell our house?’’
Her husband’s friend told him that he had decided to sell it before his death to put money away for his family after he was gone. However, because he had died so quickly after making that decision, the money had never made it into the family’s account and would be stuck in arbitration for at least several years, if not indefinitely.
The mother was shocked and wondered what she should do. Finally, she thought she should go to the house where she had grown up since it had been condemned long ago and would be unoccupied.
When they found the house far away from the city, they saw it was overgrown, old, and dirty because no one had lived there for over 20 years. At least it was empty, though.
The mother began to look for work so she could take care of her family. She finally found a job as a waitress in a coffee shop, but the pay wasn’t very good. James, the oldest, decided he need to get a job as well to support the family. He found work as a janitor at a business in town. They kept working in their jobs each day, until the mother became too old to continue.
So, at 16, James had become responsible for supporting his family. He was not able to pay all of the bills consistently, so he started to look for another job. Eventually he took on an evening job as a waiter. His schedule was very busy -- he worked for 14 hours per day. It was a very difficult way to live, but he got used to it so he could take care of his brothers.
One day while he was returning home from his evening shift, he saw a letter that was only slightly visible underneath the dirt path he was walking along. He was curious about who it belonged to, but it did not have an address. On the back of the envelope he saw: "If you want to be rich, just follow the rules.’’ He excitedly opened the letter to see what was inside, but it was just a blank piece of paper.
The next week he found another letter in the same spot with the same words on the outside. “If you want to be rich, just follow the rules.’’ When he opened this one, he found a picture of himself on a blank piece of paper. He became very scared and started wondering how someone got his picture and knew about the path to his house.
Three days later, at the same spot, he found yet another letter. Again, the same message was written on the envelope. James looked around, but there was nobody on the path except him. He opened it and saw, “Don’t panic, don’t be scared, don’t be nervous, don’t tell anyone, even the police, or you will lose your opportunity.’’
One month later, James was working as usual. He had not received any letters for the past month. When he opened his front door to go to work, he found another letter waiting for him. This time he decided to walk past it without seeing what was inside.
The next week while on a break from his janitor duties, he received a text from an unknown number: “James, do you want to know about the letters?”
James felt anxious and replied, “Who are you?’’
He received another text: “You will have your opportunity today. I will see you in the restaurant that you work at tonight.”
That night at the restaurant a tall guy wearing a black hat entered the restaurant. He came over and said, “Hi, James.”
James felt angry, ’’What is this game you are playing. Why shouldn’t I just call the police and tell them that you have been harassing me?!”
The stranger said, “Calm down and have a seat. I want to help you.”
James sat down and stared at the man.
The stranger said, my name is Thomson, and I am an employee in HPF -- Helping Poor Families. We have chosen to support your family financially on one condition. We will give you one million dollars, but you must leave your family and work for us without telling your family anything about your new job.
James thought for several minutes about the future of his brothers and said, “I will do anything. Just give me the money so my brothers can have a better future.’’
Arrangements were made, and he received the money and sent it to his family each month in the form of anonymous deposits.
He wrote letters regularly from his new home, back in the UK, but he knew he could never send them.
The work that James did was necessary for the greater good, but it was not the kind that can be discussed outside of closed doors.
As James’s father looked down from the other side and saw the life that had unfolded for his wife and sons, he wished that he had listened to James and never moved to the UK in the first place.