“This Is All I Have”

Tom has been my friend for twenty years.

The two of us have been known to quote entire episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and many a Warner Bros. classic cartoon.

I’m going to miss that.

I’m going to miss him.

He strolled into the library last Wednesday and rolled a chair up to the big desk.

“I’ve got a story for you.

“You know Tommy. Twelve years old. Tow-headed. Can’t keep his head square on his shoulders; it’s always in the clouds.”

I smiled and nodded.

Seems Tom’s elder child had amassed a total of $5.80 in late fees for overdue books at his middle school library…a debt sufficiently egregious to prevent Tommy from receiving his yearbook along with his schoolmates the previous Friday.

“Tommy knew he was going to have to pay for this out of his own pocket either by working it off or using some of his birthday money or Christmas money.

“Brooke and I pay for everything that he needs, but late fees, extra food in the lunchroom, things like that he knows he’s responsible for.”

Tommy remembered the library debt as his dad was taking him to school that fateful Friday of yearbook distribution.

“He begged me to let him borrow some money, and he assured me he would pay me back by working it off.

“What can you say…even if it’s wrong…the kid’s begging me for that….

“So, I had two dollars in my billfold. That’s all the cash I had. So I gave him my two dollars.

“He thanked me, told me he loved me as he got out and ran into the school.”

Tom called Brooke who agreed to go by on her way to work and pay Ms. Blount, the librarian, the rest of Tommy’s debt so he could get his yearbook.

He went on to explain that much of his sixth-grade son’s interaction with Ms. Blount had occurred during her hall duty between classes.

Don’t linger at the lockers. Stop running in the hall. Quit jumping trying to touch the banners. You’re going to be tardy. (Y’all…truth be told…THAT I’m not going to miss at all.)

“When Brooke went in to see her, Ms. Blount told her, ‘He’s clear.'”

Tommy’s mother was perplexed. She knew her son hadn’t had the total owed.

“Ms. Blount told Brooke that Tommy had come up to the desk, gave her the two dollars and said…

“‘This is all I have.’

“She took the money and told him, ‘That’s okay, son. You were trying to make an effort, so I’m going to mark you Paid-in-Full.'”

Tom didn’t say anything for several seconds…


“And, man! Just that day, when I heard what had happened, it struck me how the Good Man up above says, ‘It’s okay. Paid-in-Full.'”

For today, friends, this is all I have.

Steve Latham – May 29, 2017

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2 thoughts on ““This Is All I Have””

  1. Beautifully written. I can tell you I’ll miss our “figuring out how to fix the world” talks – usually by not going strictly by the book, necessarily. I’m so happy for you, but I’m selfishly sad for me. Don’t be a stranger!

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