A Twenty Dollar Trilogy
1 December, 2012
GOD LOVES LAUGHTER
The world was quite different then. Wages were low but so was the cost of living. Gas was 35 cents a gallon, a new Volkswagen Beetle cost $1578 and gold was pegged at $35 per ounce. What Charles Dickens said about the year 1790 always seems valid: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Just like today...
Yet youth and financial struggle go hand in hand. In 1960 I was a young engineer earning $70 a week, a family man with a wife and two children. However, I had managed to take up golf and played once a week at the nearby public course close to the whirlpool in the Niagara River in Canada. Over a period of a few months I had managed to accumulate a discretionary twenty dollars, just the right amount to buy a pair of golf shoes, on which I had set my heart.
We were members of a tiny Baha’i community of nine adults in the town of Niagara Falls, and a need came up for ten dollars for a planned children’s picnic. What the money was wanted for, I have long since forgotten. I decided that as I had lived without golf shoes until now, I could still do without them, so I contributed the ten dollars.
About a week later I was driving home from work, taking an unusual route after dropping off a coworker at his home, when I spotted a shoe store with a “sale” sign in the window. I pulled over and parked my 1953 Chevrolet. (recently purchased for $425)
Then I noticed a pair of golf shoes in the window marked for sale at ten dollars. Now this seemed strange as you never saw golf shoes at such a low price. When I went in, the owner of the store told me the shoes were the last ones he had and that was why he had marked them down. I asked their size.
I tried them on. A perfect fit. Just like Cinderella.
Leaving the store with my new shoes under my arm, I thought to myself, “I have never seen that store before. I wonder what it is called.”
Looking back, I saw the large gold lettering above the store “GODSELLS.”
FLEE FROM ANGER, AS YOU WOULD A LION.
I had read those lines in Baha’i scripture and decided that was for me. I would live my life in that way. You can probably guess, before that particular day was out, my resolve was fully tested and I had a failing grade
On another occasion, in Niagara Falls, Ontario, we were going to a friend’s home to hear a guest speaker named Roger Lilly. His topic was going to be “Sacrifice.”
I had met Roger before. About forty years old, he was a dwarf with a hunch back, totally blind, yet a fine speaker. His thoughtful presentations always had you doing some soul searching. Tonight was to be no exception.
It was winter and dark by 7 p.m. when we entered our friend’s home. When we sat down I checked my wallet for some reason and found that a twenty dollar bill was missing. Gone!
I was totally pissed off. Mad at myself for being so stupid, angry that the loss was so pointless. Then we all settled down to hear Roger speak. He spoke on sacrifice. He used the Lord’s Prayer as a base for his talk. He said that everything belonged to God anyway, so He could take what He wanted from us. If He wanted more from Roger, He was welcome to it. I felt smaller and smaller, thinking how I had let myself become upset over trivia. Then we found out that Roger had lost his job at the Home for the Blind that day, because he was not strong enough to lift the cases of Coca Cola. He could not do that part of his job.
I had a silent epiphany. My loss in no way compared to Roger’s. It was OK. It was only money. Maybe someone who needed the money more than I had found it.
At the close of the session we said our “goodnights,” and left into the dark night. Walking down the garden path, by the light from the porch, I saw a piece of paper blowing along on the ground. It was my twenty dollar bill...
A GIFT THAT GOES ON GIVING.
Youth is no longer a problem. I looked in a mirror today and an old man looked back at me. I don’t know where he came from. I am 78 years old and the world has changed. Gas is now $3.35 gallon, a new Volkswagen Beetle costs about $23,000 and gold is selling for $1,600 an ounce. While I am not one of the financial top two percent, a twenty dollar bill is no longer so lonesome in my wallet.
We are spending the winter in Florida and today I had two very nice surprises.
Surprise Number One. I was having trouble with both remote locking devices for my car, which now worked only sporadically. Locking the car safely when parking was frustrating as I had to walk around the car, locking one door at a time. I contacted an auto electric repair shop and they said the problem had to be in the car, not in the remotes, so they would need the car for four hours and it would cost $72 plus the cost of parts and labour to fix it. I was looking at a bill of at least $150.
I went to an electronic store in the mall. They checked the batteries on my two remotes and said they were still good, but I asked that they replace them anyway. Returning to my car, I found that one of the remotes now worked perfectly. Wow. I was in luck.
Surprise Number Two. Reentering the mall to join my wife, Eveline, for a frozen yogurt, I saw an elderly lady at a Salvation Army collection station. I had recently discovered that some of these folks were being paid $10 an hour for doing this work. Not only was this lady past the age when she should have to work, but she also looked quite poor.
I asked her if she was a volunteer, or was this a job. She said it was her job. Still feeling good about my car, I put a dollar in her collection bucket and then peeled off a twenty dollar bill and said “I know you don’t earn very much. This is for you.” She was very grateful, accepted the money, then said, “I hope you don’t mind,” and folded the twenty dollars and put it in her collection bucket.
“Give me a hug,” I said.
And she did.