Father Was Fired When Asked For Time Off To Be With His Dying Child.

Story by Rubel Shelly

It’s the Christmas season, and our hearts seem more naturally inclined to awareness of others. There is a greater spirit of generosity. And we tend to pick up on the behaviors of others that are positive and inspiring. Take the story of a young waitress, a pile of medical bills, and a handful of someone else’s cash.

Joe and Heidi Tomassi are a Kansas couple in their twenties and have two children. Their son, Griffin, has a heart defect that required surgery on July 19, one day after he was born. There was another operation two weeks later. The defect was still not repaired, and physicians told Joe and Heidi that their baby had only a few weeks to live. To make a horrible situation still more severe, Joe was fired when he asked for time off from his job to be with his dying child.

The Tomassis persevered on Griffin’s behalf and found a surgeon at Stanford University in California who performed the procedure that repaired his rare defect and saved his life. With an infant recovering from major surgery, the Tomassi family had $15,000 in medical bills. Tim was unemployed. And the normal and routine debts for shelter, food, and other needs kept on coming.

Heidi applied for work at an Applebee’s in Olathe, Kansas. On her first day as a waitress, she found an envelope at one of the tables stuffed with $3,300 in $100 bills. Nobody needed it more than Heidi! It was hers for the taking.

“I never gave it a second thought,” she said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “It wasn’t my money to begin with. Keeping it wasn’t even an option.” So she gave it to the restaurant manager for safekeeping until someone claimed it.

A man came back the next day, hoping to find the money he had somehow misplaced. It turns out that his family was in bad straits too. He had sold a car to buy Christmas presents for his family. Now they could have Christmas after all.

After learning of Heidi’s deed and her family’s plight, several people have offered money to help them. Thank God! (There was also a cruel crank call to the restaurant from a guy claiming he wanted to donate $25,000 from Las Vegas winnings, but he didn’t show up at the time and place he had promised.)

I’ll use Heidi’s story as a case study in my ethics class next spring. How would you have handled her dilemma? Would you have been tempted to have a finders-keepers-losers-weepers attitude toward an envelope of cash?

If character is what you are when nobody’s looking, Heidi has it.

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