I Threw Away A Dollar


Tash McGill

Coins Macro BackgroundSometime last week, I was crawling into bed late at night. I threw my jeans into the laundry basket and vaguely recall hearing a dollar coin hit the hardwood floor. I stood on it the next morning so picked it up and put it on the dresser.

Life’s been a little chaotic of late. There’s a pile of unopened mail sitting on my dresser too. The usual stuff – bills that will be deducted automatically, newsletters that I’ll get to sometime. This morning, I gave myself a couple of minutes to sort the junk from the stuff I really need to pay attention to – and threw away the junk. As I was scooping up that pile of sloppy papers, I’d picked up that dollar too. I heard it clink in the bottom of the trash can.

Then I thought to myself.. “Oh, it’s just a dollar, not such a big deal.

Racing out the door to work, diving into the bottom of the trash can did not appeal. So the question is – what’s the value of a dollar? I could ask the big economic questions about what happens when you take currency out of circulation or I could say something sanctimonious about taking care of pennies.

But what was that dollar worth to me? Was it worth the cleanup and time? If I’m honest – probably not. I can earn a dollar pretty quickly. The value of a dollar changes depending on how many you have right? If that’s the only dollar I have, you better believe I’m getting my hands dirty.

When I’m leaving a foreign country, I dump all my change into the closest tip jar or give it to the closest kid I can find – whether they are fundraising or not. I have a ratty collection of $1 bills that I keep in my wallet because I know I can use them – but the change feels useless to me.  For the staff of the coffee joint or the homeless guy on the corner, it’s all a step towards something.

Maybe the nagging insight that’s bugging me here, is that for some of us – money only has value when you have enough of it. Enough of it to cover the bills, enough for a new TV or the latest iPhone. It matters how much we save at Black Friday sales and if we get a big enough deal to make it worth purchasing whatever new thing it is.

Generosity talks a different language though. It redeems this idea of “more and enough” by making it communal. Generosity says things like ‘a little goes a long way’, that the act of giving gives money value greater than it’s trading worth. Makes $5 as precious as $100 because added together they are always worth more. Can do more.

So I grabbed my dollar out of the trash and was 5 mins late to work. Not because the value of that one dollar is so big but because my dollar will make someone else’s $.25 more significant.

Then I picked up all the loose change on the dresser. There was $12 worth of ‘not such a big deal’ change sitting there. I apologised in my head, for not thinking they were worth anything.