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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.

Claudia Bretzing

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. That story has been such a great reminder and testament to me. I’ve even tried to ponder on the thought that even if the person in question did take the item, perhaps they needed it more than I did. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. You’re right. As I look back, our friendship was certainly worth more than a silver dollar.

  2. I think that not to “judge” is one of God’s commandments that is easy to forget and to break. I’m glad you never accused her of taking it. That would have made you regret having judged her even harder to forget and forgive.

    1. I did accuse her in my mind. The right thing would have been to talk to her about it and preserve our friendship. Communication is the key.

  3. This would be a perfect story for the Ensign or Friend magazine. It’s so well written and teaches a wonderful lesson.

  4. Wow! That is a great story and reminder of the importance of not being too quick to judge or assume and to communicate! A lot of our problems with others could be eliminated or worked through if we were better at communicating. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. I wish I had talked to Karen about it, but I didn’t have the communication skills at age ten. The best I can do is apply what I’ve learned!

  5. I love your story! Thanks for sharing it with me. I have been guilty of judging people and assuming the worst and then later finding out that my judgment was wrong. I’ve even done this with people I love who are close to me! I will think of your story when my thoughts lead me to do this.

    1. Thanks Lynda! Even with this experience, I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions. When I do, I’m always sorry.

  6. It’s a great story. You definitely should submit it to one of the Church magazines. I wrote a story and they accepted it. It took about 6 years for it to be printed but it finally was. I’d like to do more writing when I retire. Maybe we have more in common than May birthdays, teaching and retirement!

  7. Where do I start? …

    I just finished reading your website – all the posts and the history and the home page. I am so proud of you, my friend! Your sincerity and honesty ‘jumps’ off the pages and is just so ‘YOU’.

    I can still remember meeting you that day in January( five years ago) at one of the breast cancer events. We accidentally just ‘hit it off coming’ from one of the worst heath experiences that either one of us had been through – breast cancer! It was so amazing to find someone who had gone through so many similar experiences as I had! I think we immediately liked each other; it has been a wonderful and developing friendship ever since. I truly treasure your friendship! I anxiously await to read your book. I know it will be AWESOME! And full of insight and wisdom from a super cool and amazing woman. You ROCK, girlfriend! Love ya lots!

    1. I treasure your friendship as well! How often do you find someone who really “gets it” AND you love being with? You have been an inspiration to me and I’m always uplifted by our conversations and time together. You are right! We hit it off the day we met and have been there for each other ever since. Thanks for all the positive comments, but most of all for being my friend.

  8. My favorite post so far 🙂 Loved, loved your story and the lesson it teaches. I will be sharing this with my kids too!

  9. You have an amazing gift & I thank you for this beautifully written story. You should definitely submit to be published in a church magazine!!!!

    1. I have thought about sending it to the Ensign. I just need to get around to it! Thank you for your kind words, Jacque!

  10. You shoul definitely submit this story for publication in the Ensign. It is beautifully written with such a great moral to it.

  11. I think stories like that come up often when we are growing up. With me it was a childhood friend and it was over a five dollar bill. Hard lessons.

  12. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. I know we have those experiences to enable us to become better people. You, my friend are certainly one of the ‘better’ people because you chose to learn. I hope one day you will find Karen again to really thank her for her beautiful gift.

  13. Claudia,
    What a beautifully expressed example & lesson. You definitely have the gift of a great story teller that keeps one intrigued to the end. You have always been a great example to me of grace & faith & joy…despite what you were going through…(still haven’t had time to read your book but it’s on my list!!)

    1. Thank you, Bonnie. You are an example of courage and faith to all who know you. Thank you for your kind words and support!

  14. I have always thought that miscommunication is what leads to friendships and relationships breaking. At age 10 of course you wouldn’t understand, but as we grow older it’s important to learn from our experiences. This is a perfect example of that. She was really trying to do something so nice for you and was so happy and thoughtful to do it. But we all make mistakes in life and learning from them is what’s most important. Thanks for remembering that story and sharing it.

    1. You are so right that we all make mistakes but the important thing is to learn from them! It still makes me sad to think that I misjudged my friend when she was trying to give me such a thoughtful gift. Most of the time we really don’t know all the facts but go on what appears to be obvious. Communicating with her would have saved our friendship, but my lack of maturity kept me from knowing where to begin. Since I will never be able to make this one right, the best I can do is learn the lesson.

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