It’s so strangely fascinating how small things can mean so much, how much impact they can have, and the huge lessons they can deliver in any circumstances and on any subject. The small things in this particular case are as seemingly mundane as it can get: two coins dug out of a pocket. Yet those two coins would ultimately be the first and perhaps the greatest lesson about life, love, and humanity I would ever learn, and all in one sitting no less. This was no penny for thoughts, but rather, the tremendous wisdom of thirty cents.
I can remember one day as a young boy, my grandfather called me over to him, and both his hands were held out and closed. He opened his hands before me to reveal two coins. There was a shiny new nickel in one hand, and a dirty old quarter in the other.
He then said to me, "You can only have one. Pick whatever one you want." Naturally being 4 years old with something shiny in front of me, I took the nickel. This moment would become one of the greatest lessons in life I would ever learn and I wouldn't even know it until long after.
He asked me why I picked it and my reason was based solely on appearance. He then explained to me that while that shiny, pretty new nickel was only worth five cents, that ratty old quarter was worth 25. Being that I knew how to count well past 50 at that age, I knew the difference between 5 and 25 already.
Obviously, it showed the valuable lesson of don't judge worth by what you see on the surface, therefore to not be shallow. It was a good lesson for sure, but it sure wasn't the end of it. Fast forward to now.
I'm 40 years old and my grandfather has since passed on. I think of that day now and of those two coins. After over three decades, that nickel probably now looks just as terrible as that quarter did back then and undoubtedly still does. As expected, its face value is still a small fraction of what the quarter's is. So comes the lesson that looks fade and value is more important. But wait, there's more. Way more.
When he explained to me the differences in the coins and why one was worth more than the other, I remembered him saying that they were also made of two different things. One coin was made of something special and the other wasn't.
Being that particular quarter was made sometime before 1965, it was 90 percent silver whereas the nickel was made of something virtually worthless just as they are today. Bear in mind, he didn't tell me those particular details, I discovered them on my own later. Conveniently this leads to the biggest part of the story and its ultimate lesson.
As of today, that quarter is worth $3.11 regardless of its condition or appearance, just because of what it's made of. As for that nickel that would lose its shine too? Yes, you guessed it, it's still worth a paltry five cents because of what it's made of. By now a lot of you are probably wondering what's the point. The point is that it was actually a profound lesson about humanity, and ultimately a warning of what the world would and has become.
All my life I've watched people do the same thing. They strive for that never-ending more and for perfection that doesn't exist, blindly thinking it's the pursuit of happiness. It's not. Those who seek more and seek perfection in the name of happiness ultimately find misery and disappointment at the expense of their time, their sole, and in many cases their entire life.
For only too late do they discover that it wasn't about having something perfect, it was about having something worth it. They passed up dirty quarters for shiny nickels. They missed out on something with a greater intrinsic value.
But the biggest tragedy is that while quarters are still valued at 25 cents, they're not made from silver anymore. Its ultimate worth depends on what it's made of, and the same goes for people. Be a person of greater worth than your face value. And when selecting another to spend life with, look at what they're made off too. Be wise and choose wisely.