URBANA — James Winston got a huge bonus Friday that many employees never do: the gift of being appreciated.
The 63-year-old southeast Urbana barber was robbed at gunpoint a week ago in his business inside the Sunnycrest Mall.
A few days after a story about the robbery appeared in the Feb. 8 edition of The News-Gazette, a man who knows Winston contacted the reporter to ask how much money was taken.
That person, who wishes to remain anonymous, then brought an envelope to The News-Gazette, which he asked be delivered to Winston.
"Wow" was Winston's response Friday as he opened the envelope.
It contained $60 cash — the amount taken from him — and a handwritten note worth more than a million bucks:
"I hope this small sum offsets your loss the other day. God has blessed our family and we wanted to help somebody who helps so many. Thank you for all you are doing. It is noticed, needed and greatly appreciated. Signed, Two haircuts and Two smiles."
"I needed that. I really did. God is good," said Winston, taking a break from cutting his nephew's hair.
Winston has been a vocal and active advocate for change in the southeast Urbana area that has seen its share of crime in the last couple of years.
He's had his own share of difficulties in his earlier years, battling drug addiction and serving multiple prison sentences for crimes driven by the need to feed that addiction.
Winston said he was "humbled and ashamed" thinking of what he had done to a victim of a robbery he committed as he looked into the eyes of the young man who robbed him on Feb. 6 in his shop.
Opening the envelope, he initially thought the robber may have sent back his money.
But after reading the note, he realized it was from someone else.
"I can't remember ever feeling more encouraged in my life," said Winston, whose immersion in the study of the Bible for the past eight years has him seeing the good in almost everything.
"I'm thankful it happened for spiritual reasons. If I hadn't gotten robbed, I wouldn't have known how they felt. I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing."