A Checkbook Balancing Act

Gabby, a 6th grader with spunk, had always wanted to use the gloved and bejeweled pointer that her facilitator kept perched on the ledge of the classroom whiteboard. And now was the perfect opportunity. All sixteen wide eyes of the bank’s employees were fixed on it as she pointed its index finger to a glaring figure during their mid-week business meeting. “35 citizens have bounced checks,” she declared. “That is nearly 1/5 of our society trying to use money that they don’t have. And because of it, several of our MicroSociety‘s ventures and agencies are ‘in the red’.” 


“They should get their checking accounts taken away,” responded Nicola definitively. 


“Nah, that won’t teach them to be more responsible,” refuted Danny, combing his hand through his auburn hair. “If we just take their accounts away, then they’ll never figure out how to reconcile them.” 


Gabby looked up at the ceiling as if it held the answer. Nicola was right that something needed to be done. But Danny was also right in that the “something” needed to teach a lesson. 


“Next week is payday,” started Gabby slowly, thinking as she spoke, “What if we were to run a checkbook balancing test? Anyone who wants to cash his or her paycheck, needs to show one of the tellers his or her balanced register.” 


It sounded good. In theory. In reality, it was met with disgruntled bank patrons. “What do you mean I can’t cash my check today?” grilled Drew, an 8th grade entrepreneur. “I have to go pay my speeding violation.” 


Unwilling to yield under any circumstances, Peace Keeper citations included, Nicola, his teller replied, “I would be more than happy to perform your transaction once you return with the balancing done.” 


“This is ridiculous,” Drew spat back as he walked away. “We never had to do this before. No real bank would do this to its customers.” 


He wasn’t alone. The others who failed the “test” shared the same sentiment. And decided to take their case to a “higher authority” after the MicroSociety president, Kenzie, refused to intervene. “The bank is not doing anything unlawful,” was her response. “So government has no place controlling what they do.” 


That higher authority, Mr. Griffith, the school’s principal, listened to the protesters’ grievances with an empathetic nod. “I’ll tell you what, I will cash your checks myself. No questions asked. No balancing required. Deal?” 


Looking smug, as if they had “beat the system”, the ten before him lined up to hand over their checks. Upon getting the first, Mr. G carefully counted out half of the amount due and handed it to its recipient. 


“What about my other half?” questioned Annie, furrowing her brow. 


“Well, that’s mine to keep. I do charge a check cashing fee.” Mr. G answered, quite seriously. “Next…” 


But Mr. G’s first customer would also be his last, as those remaining quickly fled. Back to their checkbooks to crunch some numbers. Sure, shortcuts exist. But they often come at a cost. Half a paycheck in some cases. As the old adage says, “If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.” Checkbook balancing included.


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