Monday, October 1, 2007

Two One Dollar Bills

Two one-dollar bills fit neatly within my pocket. I reached for the money. What was money to me? What use did I have for two measly dollars? Perhaps I could buy some candy. Maybe I could buy a soda. No, I had a credit card for those sorts of things. My parents take good care of me; they pay for everything. They had even given me a fifty dollar gift card to Wal-Mart as a goodbye and good-luck-in-college gift, and here I stood at a Super Wal-Mart in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with the gift card and those two one-dollar bills.

What significance does two dollars have? When a small amount of money comes to you unexpectedly, it can have a lot of significance. Randomly coming into possession of two dollars makes a person wonder why they were given the money. They wonder, “Who would give money away? Why would they give money away?” Perhaps they did not need the money. Perhaps what they needed was the kindness. One act of kindness confuses the recipient. Why would you help someone you do not know?

Nervously, I reached into my pocket, took out the two dollar bills, and leaned over the cash register. Whispering gently to the cashier, I said, “Could you do me a favor? Could you take this money and apply it to the bill of the person behind me or just give it to them and let them use it in whatever way they want to?”

“You want me to do what?” the cashier looked confused.

I guessed I did not say it loud enough.

“Could you give this money to the person behind me?” I repeated.

“But… do you know her?”

“No.” I wanted to do something good for a stranger.

“Then, why? What do you want me do, again? Did I hear you right?”

“Please, give these two dollars to the person behind me.” Irritation rose up in me. Why wouldn’t she just do what I asked? Was it that hard? Why was it so strange for a person to want to do a good deed?

“Are you sure?”


The cashier took the cash reluctantly. For a moment, she seemed to consider pushing the cash back into my hands. It was as if she did not want me to freely give my money away. She did not seem to understand why someone would do something for someone else. Coming from California’s fast and furious, self-centered culture, I expected the Midwest to overflow with kind people. I thought the Midwest was the opposite of California. The fact that a small act of kindness would surprise someone in the conservative Midwest came as a shock to me. The United States continues to focus on self, even in the Midwest. I only gave away two dollars, but even this stood out as something that does not happen every day.

I left the register as soon as I had given the money to the cashier, having no desire for recognition. I saw the reaction of the cashier, but wondered about the recipient of my two dollar bills. How would she respond? Rachel Steiner, a friend of mine, observed the recipient’s reaction. The woman who had been behind me in line rejected the money at first. She and the cashier looked around to see where I had gone, but I was no where in sight. After a few moments’ hesitation, she took the money and used to pay for part of her bill. She had two carts full of groceries and four children with her. There was no doubt in my mind; she needed that money and she needed something to brighten up her day.

Rachel took her two dollar bills and gave them to another cashier. I stood nearby to watch how the recipient would react. The cashier took the money willingly and handed it to the two women standing behind Rachel. The older of the two looked puzzled.

“Did you know the person who was in front of you?” the cashier asked.

“No,” the older woman replied.

“I just assumed she knew you.”

“Wow,” the younger woman exclaimed. “Who does a thing like that these days?”

The person behind them asked what was happening and the two recipients started to talk nonstop about the two dollar bills a kind girl had given them

“That’s the way things should be,” one of the women told the person behind them.

“Nobody’s ever done that before for me. I’ve never seen anyone do that for anyone,” the other woman said.

“She must want some good for her,” they continued. “God looks out for you when you do good.”

“What a loyal lady.”

“We don’t even know her.”

“I don’t even see her anymore. She just disappeared.” They were surprised that Rachel had disappeared without any desire for recognition.

They could not hold up the line all day, so they eventually got around to paying for their purchase, but their smiles never left their faces. I wondered what their beliefs were. The way they talked about God and about Rachel’s deed of kindness, it sounded like they believed in karma and some sort of god. So many people believe in some sort of god, but think no further than that. I was unsure of what these people believed.

I do not think that any of the people who gained two dollars from a stranger that day really needed the money. The amount they spent on groceries made two dollars seem like nothing, but I am sure that a small gift of two one-dollar bills blessed their day. It took me a long time to find a line where someone actually came up behind me so I could give them the money. It did not take so long when Rachel gave her two dollar bills to a stranger. I believe God put us in the right places at the right time. Who knows what those two dollar bills did for those who received them, but the money served a much larger purpose in their hands than it did in my pocket.

1 comment:

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