Sep 28, 2012

Musings of $100 Bill: Uses of money and The Benjamin Challenge


Last we spoke I shared my frustrations about being crammed into a sock for safekeeping.  You can catch up here.  I can understand their concern; the humans have good reason to worry about the safety of their money.  I have been the object of two murders.  I have been stolen 42 times from individuals; some of those were pretty brutal robberies.  I’ve been stolen 16 times from gas stations and restaurants.  I have even been snagged out of an offering plate at church.  I have been lost and won in every type of gambling establishment you can imagine.  I have funded abortions and prostitution and I have been used to buy illegal drugs 515 times.  I have watched 16 marriages end with arguments focused around me or the purchases I’ve been a part of.  I’m not bragging.  These were some of the worst moments in my recollection.  

It’s not all bad though.  I have been used to buy some pretty nice Christmas gifts.  I have been to Hawaii and back which was a nice perk after an 18 month stay in a fireproof safe.
I mentioned that people hold on tighter when you are a Benjamin.  That is true in most cases.  Some of my strangest memories are when folks didn’t hold on tight but decided to give me away.  Somehow these folks seem different.  They didn’t clench me as tight.  

On one such occasion a businessman took me on a trip and instead of putting me in his smelly sock, he put me right in his front shirt pocket.  As he walked down the street he removed me from the pocket and crammed me inside of a Styrofoam cup held by a homeless man.  I have been spent by homeless folks on alcohol in the past but this was different.  That homeless man thanked the businessman so profusely.  He rushed to the post office and crammed me in an envelope with a note.  Three days later I showed up in a small home with a woman and three children.  As she opened the letter she greeted me and the note with tears and prayers of thanksgiving.  As soon as I met her she spent me on groceries for those precious children.

I have helped to fund soup kitchens.  I have helped to build churches.  I was one of the first Benjamins donated to build the 9/11 memorial.  I have fed the hungry and clothed the homeless.  Once I was left inside of a Gideon’s Bible in what had to be the worst hotel in Denver, Colorado.  As the pages fell upon me I could see a story about a rich young ruler.  As the book closed and darkness fell I could still remember the image and read the words.  I read about a rich young ruler who was asked to give up his possessions to find real life.  He refused and hung his head as he walked away.  This was so ironic.  As a Benjamin, I decided I represented those possessions.  I could understand through all of the transactions I’ve been a part of, the death grip people have had on me, that I was a part of the problem.  Was I made for evil?  Was I printed for evil?  I spent a few months inside that book in the nightstand and I had quite a bit of time to think.   I thought about my existence and the different ways the people react to money.  

I have lived a life unlike most bills.  I have been in circulation twice as long as most.  I have learned from some pretty rough currency and I have seen life happen for the humans.  I have come to the conclusion that there are really three types of attitudes that people have when they put me in their pocket.   

Some folks truly love me.  They love to stack hundreds up and look at them or roll in them.  They love to save them up.  The ones that love me are greedy.  They hold on tighter than anyone.  These are the folks I mentioned above who would steel me if they had the chance.  

The ones who use me worry less about piling up bills and fret less about spending them.  These folks simply enjoy the things they buy.  It’s harder to flaunt a Benjamin than it is to flaunt a big house or a fancy new car or a diamond necklace.  They get rid of me as fast as they can to buy stuff that they can enjoy until that thing gets old and falls apart.  They then rush around gathering more money in order to buy a new thing.  

The last attitude is one even I can’t figure out.  This comes from the folks who give me away.  They are different than the others – happier.  They get this sort of strange smile as they hand me off or throw me in the offering plate. They find some joy in investing me, not for their benefit, but using me to build a facility to benefit others.  Instead of loving me or loving themselves, they love others and they use me to do it.  They aren’t always the richest folks.  Just like the homeless man who sent me off to the family.  The joy in his eyes as he licked the envelope and sent me off was more real than any joy I’ve ever seen.  

Maybe one in every hundred transactions leads to someone giving me, but these memories are my favorite.  I felt some ownership of the good deed being done.  Although I was just the bill and I had no choice, it felt good.  I felt good.  I’m being taken out of circulation and newer fancier hundreds are being added.  More than that, currency is dying altogether.  The old Gold and Silver standard boys are gone and just like them, I am on my way out.  Just like the currency from long ago, my days are numbered.  The plastic cards that never leave the wallet have different stories to tell.  They act differently and people act differently with them.  They don’t hold on as tight because unlike giving a Benjamin away, they don’t feel like they are giving anything away at all.  Even the plastic cards are worried about extinction.  Now folks are paying with their phones and online.  They youngsters hardly carry me anymore and soon won’t even know what a Benjamin is.  

I realized something while I was stuck in that hotel Bible.  When I am gone I want you to remember this.  Of all the people I interacted with and the experience I have had, good bad and ugly, the folks who learned to give me away had the richest lives.  They may have been out a $100 bill, but they gained a sort of life that wasn’t apparent to the rest.  

This old Benjamin has a challenge for you.  It’s similar to the challenge to that rich ruler in the hotel Bible.  Take a Benjamin, think of me, and give it away in the most impactful way you can. 
If your reaction is like the rest of these givers, and I know it will be, you will come alive as you use me for good.

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