A boy goes to the flea market to buy old music tapes, but he takes pity on an elderly man selling an old suitcase, and that act of kindness changes his life.
Martin Farmer’s life wasn’t easy and it contained few pleasures. He was seventeen years old, but he was already carrying a heavy load of responsibility. His mother was ill, and his father had passed away two years before, leaving him as the man of the house.
Shortly after that, a motorbike accident had left Martin with severe injuries to his left leg, which ended his brilliant football career, and he had been counting on football to pay his way through college…
Money was short so Martin worked after school every day and all day Saturdays to make ends meet and help pay for his mom’s medication. Once in a while he took $5 out of his savings and went to the local flea market to look for old music tapes from the 80s and the 90s.
Those monthly trips to the flea market were his only pleasure — his only hobby. That Sunday, Martin was recovering from a particularly hard week. He had worked hard, but his mother’s medical bills had come in the mail.
His week’s paycheck wasn’t enough to keep the wolves at bay forever, Martin knew that. He and his mother had a heated argument on Saturday night. He wanted to quit school and work full time, but his mother disagreed.
This morning he got up early, made her breakfast, and then headed out for the flea market. At least for a couple of hours, he’d stop thinking about his problems.
It was a beautiful morning so the fair was full of people browsing through the trash and treasures of other people’s lives, and Martin headed for one particular vendor he knew well.
He was standing by the man’s table, going through a treasure trove of old tapes when an old man arrived and set up a pile of old bags and suitcases next door. The man immediately started advertising his wares:
“Suitcases, bags, and briefcases!” he cried in his old cracked voice, “Five dollars apiece, best bargain of your life!”
A woman passing by stopped, looked, and sniffed. “Old junk is what you’ve got! There’s so much mildew on that suitcase it will probably fall apart!”
“Go on, lady!” the old man wheeled. “Help an old man out! I’m clearing out my old treasures and I can sure use the money! Things are tight…”
Another man walked past and nudged a briefcase with his foot. “Old man, I wouldn’t even give a dollar for this piece of trash! You’re not going to sell anything!”
Miracles are found where and when we least expect them.
The old man shook his head. “You’re wrong. The right person will come along because this here is a suitcase full of hope,” he said. “Cause it looks like a suitcase to you, but I promise you, it’s a dream come true!”
Martin smiled. He turned to the man and said, “I could use a lot of hope right about now! How much for the dream come true?”
“Young man,” the old man said smiling happily. “This here marvel is 100% genuine leather, made in the 1930s, and it can be yours for only $5!”
Smiling, Martin fished in his pocket for his single $5 note and handed it to the man. “Here you go,” he said.
The man was smiling hugely, and he grabbed Martin’s hand. “You’re a kind boy,” he said. “And you deserve what you’re getting!”
Martin laughed, picked up the old suitcase which was a lot heavier than he’d imagined, and waved a regretful goodbye to the music man. “Next time!” he promised and headed home for lunch.
When he arrived home, his mother complained about the suitcase right away. “Martin! Did you have to buy junk? We have enough of that! Put it in the garage or it will fill the house with dust!”
Martin obediently carried the suitcase into the garage. He was about to place it on top of an old table when he once again noticed how heavy it was. He opened the suitcase and was surprised to see that it was filled with packages wrapped in newspaper.
Curious, he ripped the newspaper and found a wad of $20 bills! Quickly Martin unwrapped the other packages. It was all money! Thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars!
Martin screamed for his mother and she came running. She was speechless at the sight of the piles of money. She didn’t complain about the dust…
That night, Martin and his mom counted and recounted the money. There was $300,000! “There’s enough for the medical bills, and the medication…” said Martin.
“Oh, and for college,” said Martin’s mom. “And maybe then we pay off the mortgage…”
“But mom,” Martin said softly. “It’s not our money. The man sold me this suitcase for five dollars and he looked very poor. I’m sure he didn’t know about the money.”
Mrs. Farmer carefully put all the money back in the old suitcase. “In that case, you have to find him, Martin,” she said. “And give it all back to him.
Over the next three weeks, Martin haunted the street markets and flea markets looking for the old man, but he was nowhere to be found. Then one day he saw him at a bus stop, carrying another old suitcase.
“Wait!” Martin cried. “Listen, do you remember me? You sold me an old suitcase? I have to give it back to you!”
“Give it back?” asked the old man. “I don’t want it back!”
“Please, you don’t understand,” Martin said. “The suitcase was full of money, your money!”
The old man started laughing. “I know THAT!” he said. “Do you remember what I told you? The suitcase was full of hope and dreams come true. That’s what it’s for. Use it well.”
The old man turned and started to walk away, but Martin ran after him. “But I thought you were poor!”
The man smiled. “No, son. I’m a man who spent his entire life making money and now I find I have more than anyone should have. So I give it to those who are kind enough to help those in need. And that’s you!”
Martin went home and told his mother the old man’s story. They decided to use the money to help her get well and to pay for his college, and from that day on, they included the Suitcase Man in their prayers.
What can we learn from this story?
- Miracles are found where and when we least expect them. Martin and his mother were at the end of their rope when they found the money in the suitcase.
- Acts of kindness are always rewarded. Martin spent his precious $5 to help a man he thought was poorer than he was and received a gift that made his dreams come true.