A wealthy banker is horrified to discover that his young son has been mocking the son of his janitor for being poor, so he comes up with a plan to teach him a valuable lesson.
Banker Henry Marsten loved his son Colin more than anything else in the world, and he was ambitious for him. Henry would be leaving Colin a fortune, more than the boy could spend in a lifetime, so most of all he wanted his son to be a good man.
That afternoon, Henry had canceled a meeting so he could pick up Colin from school himself. He’d been away on a long trip to the Far East and missed his boy terribly.
Henry parked his car in front of the school and hopped off. Immediately he spotted Colin inside the school gates, but what he was doing was a surprise.
Colin was standing in the middle of a group of other 10-year-olds and they all seemed to be focused on one other boy, a thin boy with a shock of brown hair and a thin face. Colin was jeering, “Come on, show us your shoes again!”
Then Colin turned to his friends and crowed, “The difference between a banker’s son and a janitor’s son isn’t just the $500 shoes! That’s just where it starts! You’re a loser, Jared, just like your old man!”
Henry was horrified when Jared burst into tears and Colin started laughing and high-fiving his friends. Colin called out after Jared, “Hey Jared! Need to mop to dry up those tears? Ask your dad! He’s got one!”
Now Henry wasn’t just horrified, he was furious! He’d grown up one of ten children in a very poor family, and he’d been bullied because his father was a bus driver. And here was his precious son making another poor boy’s life miserable!
Henry shouted, “Colin!” and saw his son look around and pale at the sight of him.
“Dad…” Colin said, looking nervous, “I thought you were coming back tomorrow! What a great surprise!”
Henry growled, “Get in the car!” and Colin did, scrambling onto the back seat and putting on his seat belt. Henry watched his son through the rearview mirror. His first impulse was to read his son the riot act — then he realized he had to try to teach him a lesson in a different way.
He knew that Colin was frightened, but he didn’t say a word, and when he got home he called his son’s homeroom teacher, Mrs. Savelle. Mrs. Savelle listened to Henry’s plan and made a few suggestions of her own.
The next day, she made the announcement: “OK, class! Tomorrow we are going to be visiting a bank, and there you will be learning exactly how money works, how to open a bank account, everything about banking.”
Colin put his hand up. “Mrs. Savelle!” he cried. “My dad is a banker…”
Don’t judge people before you know them.
“I know, Colin,” Mrs. Savelle replied. “We’re going to his bank.”
“Yeah…” Colin couldn’t resist a jab at Jared, “Jared’s dad works there too — he takes out the trash!” The whole class laughed, but Mrs. Savelle didn’t look the least bit amused and threw Colin a sharp look. Mr. Marsten was right. The boy needed a lesson!
The next day the whole class went to the bank with Mrs. Savelle, and Henry Marsten was at the front door to greet them all. He made a little speech welcoming them and explained that each child would be paired off with one of his employees.
Each mentor would show the child around, explain his particular job and the workings of the bank. Colin expected to be paired off with his dad, but he was in for a surprise. “Colin,” Mrs. Savelle called, reading from the list. “You’ll be with Mr. Kurt.”
Mr. Kurt — who happened to be Jared’s dad — stepped forward, and Colin shook his head. “NO WAY!” he cried. “Dad, I want to be with YOU!”
“Sorry, Colin,” said his father who was standing next to Jared. “It’s the luck of the draw! You get Mr. Kurt and I get Jared.
“I’m not going off with the JANITOR!” howled Colin, then he saw his father’s face and realized he was treading on very thin ice. He shut his mouth and stepped over to stand with Mr. Kurt and the visit began.
Mr. Kurt explained his duties which were to make sure everything in the building was not only clean and tidy but that all repairs were carried out. He showed Colin his office, which was a surprise for the boy.
Mr. Kurt had a small but very pleasant office complete with a desk, supply cabinets, and a computer with which he kept up with the inventory and requested materials he needed for cleaning or repairs.
But for Colin, the best part of the entire bank was a huge aquarium in one corner of Mr. Kurt’s office in which he saw a tropical fish. “Wow,” gasped Colin. “What a cool fish!”
Mr. Kurt started to name the exotic species in the aquarium but Colin interrupted him, “I know!” he cried happily. “That’s a clownfish!”
Jared’s dad smiled. “I see we have something in common! We both love fish!”
“Yes,” Colin said. “I watch every documentary I can find about the sea…I want to be a marine biologist, or an oceanographer one day!”
Mr. Kurt smiled. “I did too…” he said.
“Why didn’t you?” asked Colin.
“Well, my family was poor and I was the oldest of three,” Mr. Kurt explained. “Then when I was 17 my father died so I had to give up studying to help my mother raise my brother and sister so I never finished high school. Then I met Jared’s mom…”
Mr. Kurt shrugged and smiled. “But I have no regrets. I have a good job, and your dad is a good and fair man. And my boy Jared will get to be whatever he wants. As for me, I have my little bit of the ocean!”
“I wish I had an aquarium!” Colin said enviously. “My dad says I can’t have one because it’s a big responsibility!”
“Have a talk with Jared,” Mr. Kurt said with a smile. “And maybe you can come to visit the aquarium I have at home, now THAT’S worth seeing!”
Two hours later, Henry went looking for his son and was stunned to find him with Mr. Kurt. The two of them were happily discussing fish and talking about their mutual fascination with oceanic ecosystems.
“It’s time to go, Colin,” Henry said smiling.
“Already?” asked Colin, looking disappointed. “Mr. Kurt was telling me about how he’s got a Masked Angelfish at home!”
Mr. Kurt smiled and placed a hand on Colin’s shoulder. “Henry,” he said. “Your boy has a vocation!”
Henry grinned at Jared’s father. “Yes, he’s just as crazy about fish as you were at that age!”
“You knew each other as kids?” asked Colin.
Mr. Kurt nodded. “Yes, we were friends at school. I was crazy about fish, your dad was mad about numbers!”.
“Well,” Henry smiled. “Jared was fascinated by the concepts of high finance…”
Colin and Jared ended up becoming good friends, and Mr. Kurt started volunteering at the oceanarium and was such a success that they offered him a job. Years later, he was cheering proudly as Jared graduated with a major in Economy and Colin became a Marine Biologist.