Robertson was at a total loss. For weeks he had been trying to find some sort of work, anything at all, and there were no prospects in sight. He had tried everything, everywhere, with no luck.
Occasionally a friend had offered him a small loan, or a gift, but he knew that he and his family could not go on that way forever.
As a last result, he turned to the customs authorities, and offered to be their agent. It went against the grain with him, but he could think of no other way to put some bread on his family's table. The authorities lent him a listening ear, and came to an agreement: they would confiscate any contraband merchandise Robertson reported to them, and a full half of it would serve as his reward.
With mixed feelings, Robertson stationed himself along the dirt by-road that he knew was frequented by traders who ran the border with illegal imports. He was ashamed of himself, but he knew he had no choice. "I'll turn in only the first fellow I catch," he consoled himself, "and use my share of the contraband to support myself while I look for better work."
It was not long until a heavily-loaded wagon came by. Robertson ran out and hailed them down. "Halt!" he called out, standing boldly in the middle of the road.
The driver reined in the horses, and the passengers jumped down. "What's wrong?" they asked in alarm. "Why are you blocking the road?"
"Please have pity on me," he begged. "I have no work, and my wife and children are starving and cold."
The two men took pity on the haggard beggar, and gave him a generous donation. Robertson thanked them from the bottom of his heart. When they had driven on, he turned his face Heavenward and offered up a prayer of thanks that he had been spared the agony of serving as an informer.
The donation he received kept the family for starvation for nearly two weeks. Each day Robertson tried his best to find some kind of work – anything that would keep the wolf away from the door – but there was nothing available.
The money was gone. With heavy steps, and a heavier heart, Robertson again made his way out of town and hid behind a clump of bushes to await a would-be smuggler who had just crossed the border with illegal goods.
When he heard the sound of a wagon, he didn't know whether to be thankful or not. How he disliked the role of informer!
He ran out to stop the approaching wagon. A band of smugglers appeared, with a load of tobacco.
"Please help me!" he called out. "My wife and my children are desperate for a crust of bread!"
They threw a few coppers his way, and started out again. "I beg of you! Help me to feed my family! Give me enough to buy bread for all my children!"
The head of the band turned back and said with a wave of his hand: "Are you the only beggar we meet on our way? If we give each one all that he would like, we shall ourselves have to go out and beg for a living!"
Robertson was determined to get more from them. He took a firm stance, right in the middle of the road, so that they could go no further.
Three of the men pounced on him and beat him soundly. Then the wagon rolled away with its goods.
Smarting from the wounds to both his pride and his limbs, Robertson made his way to the police and reported illegal shipment of tobacco.
The police took him with them when they raided the homes of the suspects. The smugglers recognized him, and realized that he must have informed on them. Their tobacco was taken by the authorities, and they were taken to jail.
As the men were taken under guard to be locked up, one of them managed to whisper to Robertson: "Have pity on us, and give us back our goods. I promise you that we'll give you a large donation; you'll have not only bread to put on the table, but cheese to spread on it."
Robertson's heart fell within him. "How I would like to do just that!" he said in reply. "I tried to convince you, but you didn't want to listen to me. Now, it's no longer in my power. Now, as much as I would like to help you, there’s no way I can do it. It's just too late!"
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we have the chance to ask for what we would like. It's up to us to use the opportunity to the fullest, before it's too late, and we lose the chance to help ourselves.