WELLFLEET — Black River, where I grew up, is the capital of St. Elizabeth’s Parish. Known by the beautiful sobriquet “breadbasket of Jamaica” because of a thriving agricultural and fisheries community, it is a city with no city life to offer. It’s still a place where there’s no need to maneuver through traffic, or to adjust to seeing thousands of new faces.
One of the reasons I first gravitated to Wellfleet in the summer of 2001, now that I think about it, was probably that I wanted here what I had had growing up in Black River: to live in a place where we know who works down the street, who attends that church, who lives next door.
One Sunday in early June, even my own happiness with small-town life reached a saturation point.
Officially, Sunday is my day off, and I try to stay home and do as little as possible. But that afternoon the urge to go into work for a few hours was too strong to resist.
My habitual path allows me to avoid Main Street by cautiously navigating from Squires Pond Lane over to Whit’s Lane. Why I decided to take the long way that day, I don’t know.
As I drove down Main Street, I saw what looked to be pieces of paper drifting over the street. A moment later, my English left me and my Jamaican Patois took over: Me rha tid, cuh money! I said to myself (My word, look at all this money!). The street and sidewalk were covered with it.
Why am I seeing this money? My brain worked to process all the possibilities: Did some rich person get angry and throw it from a car? Is it part of a movie scene? Is this some reality television show’s secret test of honesty?
Whatever the reason, I wasn’t going to drive by all that money in the street. I was right there, in the moment. I pulled over and began picking up one-hundred-dollar bills, twenties, fives, singles.
After clearing the street of its bountiful gifts, I looked farther down the sidewalk and found a check made out to Pastor Kai Chur, and next to it an envelope. On the envelope was written: Thank You for Your Service.
This yah a real buck up or sign ti deh, I thought (This is a real coincidence or some sort of sign today). For the last year, my wife and I had been attending Pastor Kai’s church every Sunday. And I knew he had recently left the Wellfleet church to become minister of the United Methodist Church in Orleans.
I took the envelope and money to the Wellfleet church, but everyone had already left. The minute I got to work and told my wife, she was able to give me the number of a member of the congregation to call. After first calling Rich Murphy, who at the time was out of state, I reached Charles Walters. He was at home, frantically searching for the envelope.
When Charles arrived at Mac’s on the Pier to pick it up, he was relieved, though still in a vortex of confusion, trying to fathom how the envelope had ended up on Main Street. He shook my hands, we talked a bit, and he showered me with kind words of gratitude.
Having learned the purpose of the donations, I couldn’t help wanting to contribute something myself. After giving me the okay to do so, Charles politely turned his head so as not to see how much I added.
After he left, I sat in my chair, looking out the window. What a beautiful Sunday experience, I thought, as the wind gently rocked the boats in the harbor.