My personal story about money; how a child that was saving or hoarding and a hungry family.As most of you know I grew up poor. I lived a hard life and my family of seven brothers and sisters and my single mother. It was obvious to most – just by looking at us, that we were struggling and at best we were barely making due. Poverty was a constant in my home and in the neighborhood that we lived in.
I remember this one time when I was a very young boy, how in my innocent desire for wealth (to have money) and to escape from the constant emotional hardship of poverty – I started stealing coins from my mother’s purse. Trust me when I say that it was not out of malice, though I clearly understood that I was doing something wrong, my childish intension was simply to have money to save.
It all started innocently enough. The first time it happened was when I noticed that my mother was leaving some change in a bowl near her bed. I had just finished having one of those “no we don’t have money” debates with my mother when I noticed the change sitting there. Without thinking I grabbed a quarter and walked away. I was scared, I was frightened but whether my mom say me and let me sly or even if she didn’t – out of fear I put the quarter in a secret place and I waited.
At first I expected my mom to come looking for her quarter, after all money was always tight in our home and every penny counted. After a few days of anxiously waiting for my mom to home and bite my head off for stealing I came to the realization that I had gotten away with it. The next thought that popped into my head was – since I did it once can I do it again? It was a logical thought after all, since there were so few things you can buy with a quarter.
After awhile it became a regular habit, I would pass by the bowl full of change and I would reach out and grab a quarter, a dime, a nickel – pennies never fancied me, and I would walk away hoping my mother would not notice. After awhile my small stash started piling up. I could no longer keep them in my small secret place, so I moved them to another location. As I was moving the coins under cover of darkness (a night while everyone was in the living room watching T.V) I came to an astonishing revelation: I was rich.
I know, it sounds foolish but I was a child. I soon found myself secretly taking time to count my coins, stacking them up by their specific coin and staring at them with awe. The more I played with them the stronger the desire was to make my small mountain of riches to grow. As I worked on making my ‘riches’ grow my frequent trips to my mother’s coin bowl was becoming noticeable. My mother began to ask my brothers and I about her missing change. I know she knew it was one of us, but in my childlike innocence I still believed she had no clue what was happening was done by me.
My mother’s response to the growing disappearance of her loose change was to stop storing her money in such an obvious easy to reach place. This left me with only one option – to secretly sneak into my mother’s room, fight every instinct I had that told me that this was wrong and I would take the coins I sought from her purse. I found it easier to swallow because my innocent childlike thinking and a logical answer to the guilt I felt for taking money from my mother. I told myself that it was ok, that what I was doing ok because what I was doing was for the good of the family. I wasn’t stealing, I was saving money, I was storing it up so that I could continue to grow rich so that I could one day save my mother and my brothers and sisters from poverty.
It had become such a regular occurrence that my small pile of coins were starting to grow, it was no longer safe where I was storing my coins and of course – I had this ever increasing desire to count my money. Thinking back, I was like scrooge – I would sit there counting my money, my coins neatly stacked in even piles and I dreamed of the day I would be rich enough to help all of my family.
For some reason I decided that I needed a safer place to store and hide my money. I also wanted a place I could have easy access to it so that I could count it, look at it and enjoy it. I decided that the only place I could use was the door to my bedroom. A few months ago my older sister had accidently kicked out the bottom panel of the boor and it was fixed by placing two metal sheets on either side of the door. The empty space between the two sides was a perfect place to put my money. I spent days figuring out how to unscrew the panel on the inside of my room and how to set it up that it was secure yet easy to open when I wanted to count my money.
It was a beautiful set up, every day after school I would sneak into my room and quietly remove the panel and I would stare at my riches, I would neatly stack them and I would count them as I added more to my riches. I was a wonderful thing – I was rich, I was a secret spy, I was living ever Childs dream or at least what I thought at the time was every child’s dream.
That is until my dream came crashing down. One day after school I was in my room counting my money when someone suddenly knocked on the door. It was my older sister, out of fear I started to place the panel back onto the door but my hands were shaking and I was doing a very poor job. My sister was getting suspicious and started even knocking harder. When I finally finished and started opening the door my sister kicked the door wide open. We were both surprised to hear the loud clanging noise that came from the door as it slammed against the door. We both started screaming as I tried to keep her from investigating and she was trying to find out what I was hiding.
Before I knew it my mother was there and my sister was explaining to her about the noise and my suspicious behavior. My secret stash had been found, my riches were being scooped out by the handful and to make it worst, I was overwhelmed by the guilt I felt. After sometime my mother came into my room and she asked me why I was stealing money from her. I explained to her my need to be rich, the desire to save her, my family from the poverty we were in. She spent a good long time explaining to me that stealing, even with the best of intentions is wrong.
My heart was broken, my guilt was overwhelming and I felt a heavy loss for the riches that had been taken from me. I had only one solace, my mother explained to me that we had no money for food that week and that the money I had saved ( I was grateful she didn’t use the word ‘stole’) will feed the family very well. I had somehow saved fifty dollars and that was just enough to buy food to keep us going. I had lost my riches, I had let my mother down but in the end I had accomplished my goal – I saved my family. Even if it was only enough to keep us feed for one more week – the child had saved them all.
I know, it’s a long story – but it is all true. I am not saying that I was right for stealing change from my mother. But I do believe that it could be possible that there was a higher purpose. Every time I wanted to spend that money I wouldn’t. Every time I thought I should stop I didn’t. And just when we needed it most – it was found out and my family was able to survive from the money a small child had put aside.