The Value of a Dollar

“Money will buy you a fine dog, but only love can make it wag its tail” – Richard Friedman


My Uncle Harry, well actually my dad’s Uncle Harry, was a nice old man.  He was my grandmother’s brother and had served in World War I.  He knew the value of a dollar.

Uncle Harry silver dollarworked as a night watchman at a bank in Ocean City, New Jersey, and each time he would visit, he would present me with a silver dollar.  To me, it was a treasure!  He was a kindly gentleman who did not speak much.  But he always had a smile and a silver dollar in his pocket – for me.  Through my elementary years, I acquired quite a few silver dollars.

At one point my father convinced me that if I opened my very own account at the local savings and loan, I’d accrue interest.  I had no idea what that meant, but my dad, being a pretty good financial advisor, swayed me to his idea.  My mother took me in and I handed over my box filled with my precious silver dollars.  The nice lady came back in a few minutes and gave me my very own Pass Book.  It showed the date and amount of my deposit.

Each time Uncle Harry presented me with a new silver dollar, my mother drove me to the Savings and Loan office.  I would be allowed to go in by myself with my silver dollar and Pass Book in hand.  The nice lady would take the silver dollar and hand me back my updated Pass Book.  Interest would be added and I could see the balance growing.  It was amazing!  Just for allowing them to hang onto my silver dollars for me, they were paying me money!  Making money?  Easy peasy!  (says the voice of an 8 year old!)

Then we moved.

We packed up, notified the post office, shared our new address with friends, registered in new schools and went to close out our accounts.

I took my Pass Book to the nice lady and asked for my silver dollars back, plus all my interest.

She hesitated, looked at me, looked at my mother, and looked back at me.  I could not imagine what the problem was.  My mother let out a little gasp and sat down.  She attempted to explain that I would not be getting my silver dollars back.  They had been invested and in their place this nice lady was going to give me crisp new dollar bills, plus my interest.  Well, glaring at the lady, I declared that I wanted them uninvested, this minute!  I did not win.  That nice lady didn’t seem so nice any more.  I honestly was heartbroken.  It didn’t matter that my investment made me more money.  It wasn’t important that this was the “American way.”  I was given a gift and had lost it.

In hindsight, I understand no one intentionally meant to deceive me.  But I also understand that no one realized the real value those coins were to me.  They were a treasured possession and a special gift to a little girl from a kindly gentleman who was my friend.

I never told Uncle Harry.  He had passed on by the time I went to cash in my coins.  But I still have a special memory of a special friend.  His friendship was an irreplaceable gift.  It was the true value of a friend.