I noticed my daughter looking at my wallet, which I had placed on the center console of my vehicle. As I watched, she described that she thinks she is going to take a look at my wallet to see what dads keep in there. Being a bit amused, I agreed, awaiting her inquiry as to why dads are relatively boring and don’t keep necessary items such as hygiene, hair, and makeup by their trusty side. As she looked through each compartment, she spoke when she got to the important part, the money folds. “Let’s just see how much money you have in here” she said, with a somewhat skeptical tone. A grin filled my face, knowing that I had spent my last paper money a few days earlier when I found the perfect dresser for our suites and hadn’t felt the need to replace it as of that point.
With a downtrodden look on her face, the child looked up and simply said “Daddy, you don’t have any money.” I explained that she didn’t need to worry because I had plenty money available if needed through my debit card. She seemed to take my reply halfheartedly as she drew silent. What happened next both caused me to pause as well as feel great pride in this little human I have been blessed to have in my life. I watched as the child quickly opened her purse and dug out a twenty-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill. I assured her that I was not hurting for money and that she did not need to give me her money. Following a short debate, the child simply said OK and played like she was focusing on something different. I watched as she secretly placed the two bills inside my wallet, closed it, and placed it back on the console.
A couple days later I watched as my child re-checked my wallet and was amazed that the two, crisp bills were still present. Asking me why I hadn’t spent the money she gave me, I replied that I was holding it for her. She corrected me, she did not need the money and wanted me to have it. A couple days later I asked her if she was interested in a new job I found around the motel. I explained that if she would water the new shrubs and fruit trees we had planted, daily, I would give her five dollars per week. She gladly accepted the offer but explained that she felt she should do it for one dollar because five dollars was simply too much, and she really didn’t need any money. The negotiation continued as I agreed, and she accepted, that her pay rate would be one dollar per day.
As I thought about the two examples of my child and money, I considered not only how we have dreadfully failed in our attempts thus far to teach her the importance of financial management, but also how truly special this child is. Being content with where she is in life and what she has, the child thinks first about meeting the needs of others rather than herself. She has found joy in helping others, which i has made our attempts a success of sorts.
For it is when we can be content in our present situation and place in life that our ability to truly give from the heart to meet the needs of others can be emboldened. Giving is not always found in the form of monetary items or possessions but many times in a simple act of kindness. Be content my friends, worry little about what we can get out of life but rather center on what each of us can add to the lives of those around us. I will continue teaching my daughters about financial management but now, I will do my best to understand what I already know, that relinquishing that piece of paper can at times bring forth greater dividends.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from eight to 29.