Michael stood in line, patiently waiting his turn, then slipped his debit card into the ATM slot and keyed in his pin number. After selecting “Account Balance” he just stared for a moment in disbelief. He was trying to comprehend the amount that appeared on the screen. It just didn’t make sense.
There was at least $10,000 more than he was expecting. Certain the bank had made a mistake, he retrieved his card and walked inside the bank. Approaching the first vacant teller he explained to them the discrepancy, and asked them to check it out from their end.
The teller did all the necessary checks on the computer and then conferred with her supervisor, before telling Michael that all seemed above board. $10,000 had indeed been deposited into his account by…well, the depositor was simply shown as “Your Anonymous Benefactor.”
Michael ran his fingers through his brown wavy hair in confusion. $10,000 into his account? This was so random. But, he had done the right thing and informed the bank, and they confirmed it was legitimate. This gave him some comfort. Who was he to argue? Sometimes miracles do happen, besides, he could really use the money. But that didn’t explain who this mystery benefactor was.
He didn’t have to think too long and hard about what he’d do with the money. But he wouldn’t use it all in one go. He withdrew $5,000, just a little more than enough to cover the purchase of a new electric wheelchair for his wife who had suffered spinal damage from a car accident some ten years prior.
The remaining five grand would most likely pay off his maxed-out credit card, but tonight he’d be taking Cynthia out for a meal at a classy Italian restaurant he had always wanted to try. That was the least he could do after all she’d been through the last few years.
Cynthia couldn’t believe her eyes when her husband pushed the new wheelchair through the door. The tears in her eyes were enough reward for Michael to know he’d done the right thing with the money. She questioned how he got enough money and was as equally confused as him when he tried to tell her.
Later that night, as they enjoyed the finest Italian cuisine and wine, Michael’s phone beeped alerting him of an SMS message. At first, he thought it was spam as he didn’t recognize the number, but curiosity got the better of him and he opened the message.
Greetings Michael Winyard. Thank you for accepting our proposal and initial down payment for your services. Further details will be emailed to you within the hour.
“Who was that?” asked Cynthia.
“ I have no idea,” replied Michael looking even more puzzled. “No idea at all!”
Michael was a little on edge…well, maybe more than a little. What the frig was going on here? He hadn’t agreed to any so-called proposals, or sold any services to anyone – and what services? This whole thing was much too cryptic.
About an hour had passed by the time they arrived home, and with his curiosity spiked, Michael sat down to check his email. There didn’t seem to be anything relevant in his inbox, so he checked the ‘spam folder.’ An email titled ‘The Proposal’ caught his eye. The sender was just shown as A. B. Associates, but the email address seemed scrambled and it stated it was “no reply.”
Dear Mr Winyard,
Another $10,000 has been credited to your PayPal account. It is now imperative that you undertake the actions stipulated in the agreement. Please click on this link to watch a video that will explain everything and provide further instructions that you must follow.
A. B. Associates.
This was all well and good, and as he had said the money was helpful, but nothing was becoming any clearer. Whoever this A. B. Associates was seemed intent on being deceptive, and continually changing the mode of communication and even means of payment. First by SMS, next by email, and now a video. The first payment was into his bank account, and the second to PayPal…something was awfully strange here.
Another $10,000 – WTF did they expect him to do or assume he had agreed to?
He knew he hadn’t put his signature to anything or even agreed verbally. Nothing they said made any sense, so he had no choice but to watch the video. Perhaps that may shed some light on this mystery.
Michael sat down to watch the video, with some trepidation. A stylish logo for ‘A B Associates’ appeared on the screen. It was strange that a Google search of the company had yielded no results.
The video itself began with a spiel about the benefits of giving…reaping what you sow… etc. This was followed by a series of various scenarios or case studies of people who were in desperate need of such things as a life-saving/changing operation; a house for a family forced to live out of a car for months; someone who needed money for an unexpected overseas trip to visit a dying relative … etc.
In all of these examples the people were suddenly and unexpectedly presented with whatever money was necessary to fund whatever was needed – no more, no less. It seemed to Michael like a sort of ‘Pay It Forward’ scheme where people anonymously nominated others who needed assistance and some philanthropist, in this case, A. B. Associates (or has Michael had worked out from the original bank deposit ‘Anonymous Benefactor’) came to the rescue or at least made things happen.
This was the last thing Michael had expected, as he had had some sense of foreboding about the whole situation. At least watching the video had eased his confusion and had shone a positive light on what was expected of him.
Evidently, someone aware of Michael and Cynthia’s situation had nominated him, and $20,000 was just enough for his wife’s new wheelchair and to pay off all their credit dept. The actions or requirements he had to agree to undertake was, in turn, to anonymously nominate someone else who needed help, and no matter how much it cost, A. B. Associates would provide what was needed.
At the end of the video, it stated: “Please refer to the original email instructions and instigate them without delay.”
It was then that Michael realized he must have missed the original email that would have gone someway into explaining the strange situation. He scrolled back through his junk emails until he found it. This was the email in its entirety:
Dear Mr Winyard,
We wish to advise that you have been nominated as a recipient of funding in the form of $20,000 to be paid to you in two separate instalments. This will be done via your bank account and also PayPal. The only stipulation on receipt of this money is that you use it to:
- Purchase a motorized wheelchair for Mrs Cynthia Winyard
- Pay off all outstanding credit card debt
* Please ensure that the money is used for these purposes specified. Scanned copies or screenshots of the receipts should be forwarded by return email.
*Any leftover monies, if there are any, may be used as you see fit.
- All correspondence regarding this matter is to remain confidential and all parties concerned must remain anonymous, including yourself to whoever you nominate.
- Nominate a person or group of persons (including full names and addresses, and reason for needing assistance) within ten days to the above email address.
* Please consider this nomination very carefully
*Acceptance or refusal of any nominated entity for assistance is solely at the discretion of A. B. Associates and its directors
- Failure to abide by any of the above will render this agreement invalid and A. B. Associates may see fit to exercise our rights to seek a refund or reimbursement of part or all payments made.
A. B. Associates thank you for participating in this ‘Pay It Forward’ initiative and we hope your own personal situation has been relieved or improved to a satisfactory extent.
As Michael finished reading the email, he wondered who had nominated him, well him and Cynthia. He couldn’t express how grateful he was, even if he knew who to thank. It had to be someone who knew them closely and their situation, but the email had stressed that everything must stay confidential, so he couldn’t really tell anyone about it or ask if they were responsible. He wasn’t even sure he could tell his wife but assumed that as she was his co-recipient it would be okay.
But the most pressing thing now was to think of who he was going to nominate to receive assistance or, ‘pay It forward’ to. He had ten days from the first email, and four days had already expired. Michael knew how much something like this could change lives, and he didn’t want to waste the opportunity or make a bad decision.
He’d put his thinking cap on. There were a few people and non-profit organizations that he knew could use a hand. But which one was the most desperate? Maybe he’d also ask his wife if she knew of anyone in a needy or dire situation at the moment. That said, Michael thought it safest to be as vague as possible about the whole situation. After all, A. B. Associates had not forwarded Cynthia a copy of the email.
Michael had been carefully weighing up the needs of anyone he knew that may be in need of financial assistance. In fact, he couldn’t concentrate on much else at the moment. He had trouble deciding who was more desperate for help than another., and besides, he needed to relieve himself of this pressing responsibility thrust on him.
It was worrying that if he didn’t nominate someone before the deadline he would be asked to pay back all the money he himself had received. He hadn’t wasted any time using it in the way he’d been instructed – an electric wheelchair for his wife, and to pay off their credit card debt. It had certainly helped get things back on track and made life easier, but there was no way he could afford to pay it back.
Michael had been compiling a list of possible recipients. He was about to put all the names in a hat and draw out the lucky nominee when Cynthia drew his attention to a local news update. “Come watch this Michael,” she coaxed, “Some poor family have just lost everything in a house fire overnight and in our very own suburb!”
Michael sat on the sofa next to his wife and watched the news. The young family of two adults and two young children (one a baby) were shown standing and staring in shock at the front of what once was their home.
The parents choked back tears as they told the reporter they were not insured and had lost virtually everything except the clothes they had been sleeping in. They just thanked God they had all managed to escape the flames. Michael always felt the reporters were heartless to ask people questions when they had just suffered such trauma or devastating loss.
But, perhaps he wasn’t much better. This was just the type of situation Michael had been looking for. Although he felt deeply for the family’s terrible situation, he was also relieved that it may have provided him with an answer to his own dilemma.
The TV station said an appeal was being started to provide clothes, essentials, and temporary accommodation for the traumatized family. This allowed Michael to easily obtain the names and details of those involved. He wasted no time in emailing his nomination to A. B. Associates.
He felt guilty that perhaps he was doing this for the wrong reasons. Was he only nominating these people so that he wouldn’t lose what he’d already received? Would he have done anything to help this family in any other circumstances? He liked to think so, especially if he had the means like A.B. Associates obviously do.
Anyway, why dwell on these hypotheticals? At the end of the day, he was doing the right thing. He was arranging to have help directed to someone who needed it. Did it really matter why or how? Should he tell Cynthia bout the whole situation? His wife’s level-headedness often helped ease his mind. He considered this, but once again decided against it… for now anyway.
Point 3 of the email was still fresh in his mind, “All correspondence regarding this matter is to remain confidential and all parties concerned must remain anonymous, including yourself to whoever you nominate.” Maybe one day in the future he could reveal all.
Michael did wonder how long this ‘pay it forward’ scheme would continue, but he realized he would never know. Probably until these Anonymous Benefactors ran out of funds, or got bored with the whole thing. He hoped that would not be for a long time, and he felt good he had played his small part in continuing it. Even if no one knew.
… the end …
John Hansen © 2022
For more works by this author see John Hansen on The Creative Exiles.
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