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The Silver Dollar Lesson

Secret Treasure

It was the early sixties, and like many ten-year-olds, I had a collection.  I remember my friends’ collections which included anything from a big foil ball made of chewing gum wrappers to the typical horde of marbles or rocks.  One of my friends collected plastic horses, which didn’t interest me in the least.  I saw little worth in something that posed in one position and collected dust.  On the other hand, I was very proud and protective of my collection.  In my mind, it was truly valuable.  I collected silver dollars.

Due to its extreme worth, I didn’t mention my stash to anyone.  I kept it safe in a small box, the size a person would place a necklace.  Inside the box was a piece of cotton that hugged the base and kept my treasures in place.  I only owned eight silver dollars, but that was a fortune for a girl of ten, especially in those days.

When I was alone in my room, I enjoyed taking the box from the middle drawer of my bookshelf, carefully removing each silver dollar.  I savored the coolness of the coins as I turned them over in my hand.  With explicit care, I arranged them in a line on my bedspread from the earliest minted coin to the latest.  Being especially proud of the older coins, I vowed to keep them forever.


The day finally came when I decided to share the secret of my collection with a friend.  It was early spring when I invited Karen over to roller skate.  We barely began skating when a sudden cloudburst forced us inside.  As we sat on my bed discussing what to do, I suddenly knew how to save the day.  I would show my prized collection to Karen.  As I removed the small box from the back of my drawer, I stressed the importance of never revealing what I was about to disclose.  I was almost breathless as I proudly removed each silver dollar.  We enjoyed inspecting the coins together, Karen squinting to read aloud the date of the oldest coin,”1921.”  It was fun to finally divulge my grandiose collection to a trusted friend.

The Lost Coin

When it was time for Karen to go home, she carefully helped me put each coin in the box and I replaced the lid.  As I lifted the heavy contents into the drawer, I lost my grip and dropped the box, scattering the entire collection in every direction.  My hardwood bedroom floor was the worst landing spot for silver dollars and I watched in horror as several bounced and rolled out of sight.  Working together, we were able to retrieve seven of the coins, but the eighth coin could not be found.  I was heartbroken.  To add to my dismay, I discovered the missing coin was the one bearing the date, 1921.  How could I have been so clumsy and careless?

After Karen left, I grabbed a flashlight and continued to comb every inch of my bedroom.  I turned over clothes, looked under furniture, and removed everything on my closet floor.  Searching in vain, I began to suspect that Karen may have found my rarest treasure and decided to keep it.  Once the thought entered my mind, it began to fester like an annoying blister.

At school on Monday, Karen asked again about the missing coin.  I told her I hadn’t found it yet and she seemed genuinely concerned.  I decided to let it go and our friendship continued, although I was more distant and we spent less time together.

The Gift

By May I had lost all hope of finding my silver dollar.  Two months had passed and the school year was nearing an end.  The incident was almost forgotten with the coming of summer vacation and my birthday.  I was planning a party and had invited my closest friends, including Karen.  As we sat around opening presents, I smiled as Karen handed me a small, wrapped box.  I could tell she was really excited about her choice of gifts and couldn’t wait to see my reaction.  As I lifted the lid of the tiny box, I saw an aged silver dollar.  Slowly, my eyes focused on the date:  1921.  I choked out a polite “Thank you” as my heart sank.  My suspicions were confirmed.  At least I got my precious silver dollar back.

Karen probably wondered why I stopped inviting her over.  She had lost my trust and I didn’t feel the same about our friendship.  I remained silent about my feelings not knowing how to approach her and talk about it.

A Coin Found, a Friendship Lost

It was the middle of July when I decided to rearrange my bedroom furniture.  I enjoyed reorganizing my room and it was the perfect task for a boring summer day.  Since I didn’t have carpet, it was easy to scoot the bed across the floor and as I did so I heard a familiar clinking sound.

I quickly knelt down and peered beneath the bed skirt.  Among the dust, I saw what looked like a large round coin.  Stretching my arm, I retrieved it and held it up to the light.  I blinked in unbelief at the numbers that boldly shouted their accusation.  1921.  It was my missing silver dollar.  Apparently, on that fateful spring day, it had bounced some crazy way and lodged on one of the bed boards.  Moving my bed was all that was needed to jar the coin from its hiding place and announce its presence.

The joy of finding the lost coin was overshadowed by guilt.  I had unjustly accused Karen of stealing my silver dollar and then giving it back as a gift.  In reality, she had searched and found a replacement, knowing how much the coin meant to me.  She was a genuine, true friend and I had doubted her integrity and discarded our friendship.  In the meantime, she had moved on.

The Lesson

I have never forgotten the grief I felt that day.  Not only did I misjudge someone’s character but I lost the association of a cherished friend.  I didn’t know how to repair things with Karen, but I haven’t forgotten the impact of one silver dollar.

Throughout my life I have repeated this mistake, thinking I have all the facts to make a sound judgment.  When I look beyond the obvious and into the heart, I find in every case my conclusions are wrong.  My mind flashes back to the day I found my missing coin and I renew my resolve to remember the poignant lesson taught by a single silver dollar.

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