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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

Never – unless absolutely essential - conduct your financial transactions in Welsh.

You will regret it. I learnt that lesson the hard way yesterday when drawing cash at a Santander cash point. As I peered into the screen in bright sunshine I realised that the instructions – don’t ask me why – were in Welsh. To make it worse, I couldn’t work out which was the “change language” button. The problem was there was a queue, and I felt under pressure. For me there is nothing more irritating than standing behind a little old lady (i.e. someone of my age group but smaller) who simply stares at the screen without making any obvious response! So I decided to go for it. I have Welsh speakers on both sides of my family while my grandmother used to sing to me in Welsh. It’s there somewhere buried deep in my DNA. You will be impressed to hear that I managed - by a combination of working out the position on the screen and some basic vocab - to navigate to the second stage. I think that the machine was telling me it only had £20 notes. Was that okay? But at that point, following the example of Llywelyn ap Gruffudd in 1282 I realised I had no choice but to cede defeat. After all there was an English-speaking ATM inside the branch. So I simply pressed a couple of buttons to reclaim my card and moved ATMs.

And that was it. Except when I got home and looked at my banking app, I noticed I had made not one but two cash withdrawals from Santander, just minutes apart. I then had the dreadful realisation that I had actually succeeded in withdrawing my Welsh £20 but had walked away without taking the cash. Those who know me will know that this was a truly devastating experience, made worse by the understanding that I had only myself to blame. But there was a long shot I could make. So I returned to the branch, late afternoon, to ask if anyone had handed in a £20 note from the outside ATM. To my surprise and joy the cashier responded that this was my lucky day. The wonderful person behind me in the queue (probably a little old lady) had handed it in. That, of course, made my day. Not just (but mostly) that I was reunited with my unclaimed cash but touched by someone’s honesty, their basic decency. After all no one would have known – and I was nowhere to be seen. “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation,” argues basketball coach John Wooden, “because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are…The true test of a man's character is what he does when no one is watching.” Most of life’s challenges come in small packets when we think no-one is looking. Often it’s not the big decisions which floor us but the simple, barely noticeable actions which may reveal our character. One incident comes to mind, although I have forgotten where from, when someone was being interviewed for a job at a bank. They needed the break. By all accounts the job was his until they all went for lunch. Here the candidate slipped a butter portion under his plate to avoid paying for it, thinking no one had noticed. He was wrong and for a few pence he failed the integrity test. Talking about a few pence, Jesus was moved by the simple integrity of one little old lady, someone who thought no one was looking. “As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” (Luke 21:1-4) As actions go, barely significant. Not just small but very small, and who would take any notice of this woman living on the margins? No one in their right mind would describe her as being overwhelmingly generous. The very opposite, in fact. Her gift of just two mites would have been seen as an insult. (Try putting two 5p coins on the church collection plate.) We’re not told of her back story – except that Jesus tells us that this tiny payment was all she had. Was it a struggle for her? Did she hesitate before throwing her all into the temple jar? Did she wait until no one was looking (and more, listening)? Did she hurry away, unaware of the effect she had on Jesus? And what happened when she got home? Whatever, she would never have known the full effect of her simple act of trust when she thought no one was looking. Certainly she inspired Jesus – who was about to give his all. And through her, he challenged the disciples, he challenges us with the level of her commitment, her trust in God’s provision. At the end of the day, we play our lives before an audience of one. It simply doesn't matter if people are watching or not. We resolve to do the right thing, however insignificant, before God, for his good pleasure. As my grandmother faithfully taught me: “Gall pechod mawr ddyfod trwy ddrws bychan.” Definitely! #honesty #AO1

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