Ken Harris: Puppeteer, Financial Literacy Champion
We are pleased to have Ken Harris share a “favorite” money moment and memory with us. I was introduced to Ken and his Sammyriffic work through our mutual collaboration with the Florida Prosperity Partners Spondulics financial education channel.
About Ken Harris
Ken is a puppeteer and trained stage actor. He loves to to educate and entertain. He has used marionettes, shadow puppets, and hand puppets to encourage children’s reading at his local YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club, various preschools, and many other venues across western Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Additionally, he has experience working in the Criminal Justice field working as a Reserve Police Officer, Correctional Officer, and Courthouse Security Officer.
In His Own Words: Money, Money, Money
I still have my certificate of excellence that was awarded to me when I was employed by a movie theatre when I was a teenager many years ago. Whenever I gaze at it, I don’t reflect on this recognition of “Superior Job Performance and Professionalism”. Instead, I am reminded of my introduction to the responsibility of properly handling finances that don’t directly belong to me. I have to credit this to my younger brother Aaron who was employed as an usher alongside me.
Before I had any interest in cleaning theatres, I was a devout moviegoer. I primarily attended weekend matinees. The entire staff knew me well; especially the cleaning crew who boasted about how happy they were. They always insisted I should work among them since I was there all the time.
One day, an usher whom I’ll call Jacob, told me about an “unwritten policy:” If you find cash on the sticky floors of the auditoriums, you can keep it.
He made claims of sometimes finding anywhere from $20 to $50 on a weekend. This appealed to me.
It wasn’t long before I handed in an application and was hired as a member of the theatre cleaning crew. Yes! We all diligently kept an eye out for loose currency and pocket change after shows.
Oh, I forgot to mention, there was one exception to the “unwritten policy.” We were not to explore any pocket books or wallets left behind. Those items were to be immediately turned over to management. They would determine the rightful owners and have onsite police officer get in contact with them.
It wasn’t long before I talked my brother Aaron into applying for a job at the 12-complex theatre.
One day while cleaning a theatre after a show, he stumbled upon a thick white envelope under a seat. There were literally hundreds of bills inside.
$3000 in crisp cash to be exact!
The other ushers and myself thought he hit the jackpot! In the three years since this theatre opened, no one has ever found that much money.
My first thought was why would some fool bring that much dough here and recklessly leave it?
After counting it with the faces of drooling vultures around him, Aaron flatly said he was going to turn in the money over to management.
We were flabbergasted. He found it. It was his. Why would he want to turn that in?
The ushers; including myself, didn’t see any consequences for claiming it. Even the on-duty police officer told him he should keep it and not say anything.
Even when the envelope found its way to the manager, he believed Aaron was making a mistake turning it in.
But all this protest evaporated when a woman scurried in; weeping uncontrollably. It turned out the money belonged to her!
The cleaning crew dispersed like rattled fish in a bowl.
The woman said the funds were intended for a down payment on a house. After counting the contents of the envelope in the presence of my brother, the manager, and police officer, she left without saying thank you.
Her lack of gratitude was far from my mind. I just had this feeling of being thankful Aaron did the right thing.
He certainly never had any remorse for turning the money in.
The fact she came back allowed me to reflect and understand the responsibility of handling finances that don’t necessarily belong to me.
Don’t expect people who claim to have your back will stand up for you in times of trial.
When handling money, doing the right thing with it is crucial to growth as a responsible and productive citizen. It is a test of our moral measures as individuals.
So, when I look at my certificate award that my brother never received, I don’t reflect on how well I maintained a theatre after showing. I reflect on my life experiences in handling finances. I have Aaron to thank for that.
Discover more about Ken Harris by visiting HIS BLOG.
You can also listen to an audio version of Ken share today’s story on New England Public Media!
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