How much are you worth?
I’m worth 100 pennies.
Or 10 dimes.
Or 20 nickels.
It’s not really very much. When I was very young, just after I was printed, I used to be jealous of all of the other bigger bills, like the $10, $20, and $100. Once I even saw a $1,000 bill. But things are different now.
When I was first handed out at the bank, I was crammed into someone’s wallet along with some fives and some twenties. I didn’t stay there long. Pretty soon I felt a hand grab me, crumpling my new paper, and hand me over to someone else. Before I was put in the drawer, I saw my new owner hand over something that looked like a burrito. It wasn’t much of a transaction, but it was my first. It defined me. I was worth a burrito.
After many exchanges, I began to feel worthless. As the lowest bill, all of the other bills were exchanged for cool things—phones, cars, clothes—while I was still used for unimportant purchases.
Then one day, I felt someone hand me into very small hands. They were soft, slightly sticky, but grasped me with a reverence that I hadn’t felt before.
“We got it!! It’s the last dollar!! C’mon guys!!”
I wasn’t even put into a wallet, as I was accustomed, but instead felt myself tightly gripped in the child’s fist as he ran to the store as fast as he could. Suddenly I found myself getting excited along with them.
“Here! Here it is!”
“Well, well, boys. You’ve finally done it!” the big storeowner smiled and looked down at the small group of children. My child held me out like I was a $1,000 bill. The storeowner raised his eyebrows, and with elaborate delicacy, he picked me up. The child led out a whoop that turned a few customers’ heads and raced down the aisle toward the back. I thought with disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to see what he had bought with me. But just as the storeowner put me into the drawer, I saw the boy wheel a beautiful red bike out of the store. If I could grin, I would have. In that moment, I felt like I was worth a million pennies.
But that wasn’t the end. The very next day, I was given as change to an old woman. Her purse was the scantest I had ever seen it. I was the only bill in there. A few forgotten pennies lay at the bottom of the purse and looked at me in respect.
“She doesn’t get many of you at a time.”
A few days later, the old lady drove to the bank, and soon I was joined by nine more dollar bills.
“We’re all that’s left,” whispered the dollar bills sadly. “There’s nothing more there.”
The next stop was a big white building. She carried us all inside and sat down in a big room filled with people.
The next half-hour, all I heard was beautiful singing. Then, the old woman’s careful, wrinkled hands reached into her purse, took us out, folded us carefully and placed us into a gold plate lined with red velvet.
All the bills whispered and gawked. A man in nice clothes carried us on the platter all the way to the front of the room. More singing filled the air. If I could cry, I would have. We were the last that the woman had, and yet she gave and got nothing in return. I was confused—wasn’t that what we were for? Wasn’t I only worth a burrito? Why was I being carried with reverence in a gold plate?
Soon my questions were answered. A tall man with kind eyes picked me up from the plate, and the next day, I witnessed another strange transaction—the man gave me to a woman carrying a baby. The baby was crying.
“Thank you, pastor.”
The man smiled and walked away. He didn’t receive anything. I wanted to cry out, “What is going on?” Could I be worth nothing?
The woman used me to pay for something at the store. I don’t know what it was. But after I was exchanged, the baby stopped crying. Even though I was in the cash register, I could hear the woman’s voice, low and happy, talking to the child. Soon, the baby laughed. Suddenly I realized the reason why I was given freely. Because he gave me in exchange for a baby’s laugh. I was given in exchange for a boy’s joy. I am not worth 100 pennies. I am not worth 20 nickels or 10 dimes. I am worth far more than that.