Father was shocked to hear that Litea had given away his money.
Father pulled out several banknotes as 15-year-old Litea Cavalevu ate her breakfast of oatmeal and bread.
“Here,” he said, handing her 80 Fijian dollars, or about U.S.$40. “This is for the school fees that you need to pay for the year. Make sure that you pay your teacher and bring back the receipt when you return in the afternoon.”
The new school year had just begun for Litea in Fiji. Tuition was free at her Seventh-day Adventist school, just as it was at all schools in Fiji, but students needed to make a special payment for field trips and other expenses. Students who didn’t pay the fee could still go to school, but they would miss out on the fun of going on field trips to World War II monuments and to the historic sites where missionaries first arrived in Fiji.
Litea took the money.
“I’ll give you the receipt after school,” she promised.
When she arrived at school, she immediately went to Teacher and held out the money. Teacher looked in a book.
“No, I don’t need the money,” he said. “Your fees have already been paid.”
Litea was surprised, and she sat down at her desk. Teacher looked at the book again and began to call out the names of students who had not paid their fees. One of those students was Litea’s friend, Ilisavani.
Litea knew that Ilisavani’s family didn’t have much money. Ilisavani’s father was working in Australia, picking oranges as a seasonal farm laborer. But he wasn’t earning much money to send home to Fiji. Ilisavani’s mother was struggling to feed her and her three brothers and sisters.
Litea walked over to Ilisavani.
“Here,” she said, “Use this money to pay your fees.”
Ilisavani looked surprised. “No, I can’t take your money,” she said.
Litea pressed the money into her hand. Ilisavani, with tears of gratitude in her eyes, accepted it and gave it to Teacher. Teacher filled out a receipt, which Ilisavani tried to give to Litea.
“No, no,” Litea said. “Give the receipt to your mother so she knows that your fees have been paid.”
Father, who worked at the church’s headquarters in Fiji, wasn’t at home when Litea returned from school. He forgot all about the money and the receipt until the family was eating a supper of taro, cassava, and soup. Litea looked uncomfortable when he asked for the receipt.
“There was a problem,” she said, hesitantly. “I went to the teacher to pay him the money, and the teacher told me, ‘Your fees have already been paid.’”
At that moment, Father remembered that his workplace had taken the money for the fees from his salary and sent it directly to the school. He had forgotten about that.
“What happened to the money that I gave you?” he asked.
Litea told how she had given the money to her needy friend.
Father and Mother were shocked. Eighty dollars was a lot of money. They exclaimed in unison, “WHAT?!”
Litea squirmed in her seat. She didn’t want her parents to be unhappy.
Then Father and Mother looked at each other and smiled. They realized that Litea was putting into practice a Bible verse that she had learned in Sabbath School. The verse, Matthew 22:39, says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (NKJV).
Father turned to Litea.
“We’re glad that you did that,” he said. “Thank you for looking out for your friend.”
Litea heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank you for understanding,” she said.
The next day, Ilisavani’s mother called Litea’s mother on the phone. She was crying.
“Thank you very much for what your daughter did,” she said. “You know our family situation. Thank you for meeting our needs. We really needed the help.”