The Candy Cotton Seller Who Returned $23,000

Published January 11th, 2022 - 09:24 GMT
One of the streets in downtown Irbid
One of the streets in downtown Irbid, north of Jordan (Shutterstock)

Few days ago, possibly on New Year Eve a young man named Ismael Abu Aqel was making his regular rounds in the streets of downtown Irbid in Jordan when his eyes spotted a sort of a bundle abandoned at the edge of a nearby sidewalk. 

He was shouting out his classical promotional lines to draw the attention of potential customers, especially young girls strolling around, to his home-prepared plastic packs stuffed with fluffy multi-coloured cotton candy.

Assuming he was the only beholder of that object then, he ventured closer and picked it up. To his great surprise, the bundle was stuffed with lots of cash. But he maintained his calm and headed towards the closest exchange shop to see if they knew of anyone who lost any money recently!

After a short exchange, the shop owner told him one of his costumers did indeed report losing his money just minutes earlier.

The meeting between Ismael and the man who lost his money took place without delay. Ismael handed back the bundled cash to the claimer who in turn, handed Ismael a JD5 ($7) thank you tip! The amount of the recovered cash stood at JD17000 ($23,977)! A sum of money, Ismael would have needed nearly five years to accumulate, supposing he was making a net JD300 ($423) profit per month from his career!

Let’s flip the coin and see what the other side could have in store? Let’s imagine that Ismael choose to keep the money for himself. In which case he would not have approached the shop owner. Instead, he would have sneaked out of the place and headed back home. In his own privacy, he would have counted the money, more than once, patiently, while reflecting on this unbelievable incident.

He would have been contemplating plans of how best to cover his many financial shortfalls: such as purchasing a fixed stall for his occupation, buying new clothes, a new mobile phone and all the rest of it. Further, stretching his big dreams, he could have thought of helping his elder brother to enrol in one of the universities, or even pondering to get married himself, and the rest of a long list of pending fantasies!

On the other side, where the man who lost that money would be standing, one could, easily, imagine a gloomier atmosphere. May be that man was planning to pay back some of his debts, such as medical fees, or finish an additional room to his house, or replace his old pickup truck with a new one, etc., etc.

But as the scene unfolded in its original version, a third party came on stage; namely my reaction and yours as part of a public perception of the whole episode. What lessons can be learned from the cotton candy boy’s story? What conclusions can be drawn out of this rare tale of altruism? What steps can be taken to dissimilate the significance and meaning of this kind of behaviour? There are many choices, definitely. You can pick up yours. But mine is very simple and may be, surprisingly, naive!

The Municipality of Irbid can name one of its streets or even an alley after this young man’s name. Other cities around the country can emulate. So passers-by, whether average honest citizens or potential burglars, upon seeing the new road sign, would be reminded of the original story by reading the caption at the bottom: He is the candy cotton boy who chose to live in dignity!

 Saleem Ayoub Quna is a Jordanian writer who contributed this article to Al Bawaba.

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