I was hunting in a used book store recently when I found an experience worth treasuring.
A mother and her young adult son were book shopping (something that is done frequently in used book stores….). He found three books that he liked but she objected to his selection, citing their high price as the reason. His choices off the “half the cover prices” shelves, which translated to $3.50 each while the books she traditionally chose were from the “flat rate” shelves and sold at $1.25 apiece. “I just cannot afford those expensive books,” I overheard her say.
The young man put the books back. Later, when the mother questioned him about them, he told her that he did not want them anymore. “I don’t want to do that to you Mom,” were his exact words.
When the mother checked out, her purchases totaled $18. She only had $11 in her purse and so had to borrow $7 from a friend. In the meantime, her son found a book in a box marked $1. He brought it to her, but at that point she had no money. Without protest, the young man put the book back.
I know what it is to hunger for a book and I am very familiar with the disappointment one feels when walking out of a book store empty handed. Quickly I found the young man and, handing him a dollar, said quietly “From one book lover to another.”
It is perhaps the best dollar I have ever spent. Seriously. If one were to perform a dollar-to-joy ratio analysis for all the money I have every spent (something similar to a the weight-to-strength ratio calculated for ants; “New research published last month showed that the neck joint of a common field ant can withstand 5,000 times the ant’s weight” https://www.insidescience.org/content/ants-are-even-stronger-you-imagine/1567) then this experience would rank near the top, if not at the very top, of my dollar-to-dollar-monetary-investment to amount-of-joy ratio list.
The joy return on that single dollar investment was incredible. The young man was sincerely gracious as he thanked me when I handed him the dollar. He thanked me again at the checkout counter. He and his mother and her friend were still in the parking lot when I exited the store. They all thanked me again. The experience clearly had a positive impact on their day.
As for me, I nearly floated to my car, lifted by joy, pure, untainted, unblemished, unquestionable joy. And that joy continued to lift me throughout the rest of the day. I pictured the smile on his face and I smiled. I heard the warmth in his mother’s voice and my heart warmed. I imagined their conversations around the table that night and the good feeling I got was very real. Remembering times (many!) when others’ generosity made my life brighter added an additional layer of depth to my experience. What an incredibly fabulous experience…..and it only cost me $1. Oh the power of a dollar!