I hate change. I am not talking about changes, but change: nickels, dimes, pennies and the like.
At the grocery store, I’m the king of speed. But I always seem to get behind the queen of change. When the cashier tells a woman like this a total, say $10.71, she tries to see how much change she can get rid of. While the entire line waits patiently, she pulls out her change purse and begins the process of counting coins. Her goal in life must be to get rid of as much change as possible at one stop.
Some of you may think I’m kidding. I’m not. This dear woman will count out all her pennies to see if she has 71 cents. Of course to me, change is time, so in the time it takes her to count out her pennies, I read the entire issue of Reader’s Digest and part of the National Enquirer. This is the magazine with the tagline “Enquiring Minds Want to Know.” What enquiring minds really want to know is how to count change faster.
While you’re reading this, I’m serving in Piedras Negras, Mexico, with a group of student missionaries. I love Mexico. The churches I work with, and the warm hearts of those who live there are phenomenal. But I can’t stand the change. It seems like the Mexican government alters the appearance of its coins as often as we put new sheets on our beds.
For two years, I saved my Mexican coins to give to a church there in support of their building project. On the Sunday I presented my gift, a look of horror came over the pastor’s face. The coins I had saved were last year’s and had no current value.
If I were a Pharisee of Jesus’ day, I would have dropped the old coins into a beggar’s cup and walked away feeling better. But I knew I had failed to help my friends. My gift cost me double because I had to replace the old coins with new ones. Are you starting to understand why I hate change?
We teach our student missionaries that, before they leave a foreign country, they should use up all their change. Every year, we say, “Get rid of it. Do not cross back into the US of A with change in your pocket. It will cause you nothing but problems. Spend it while you can.”
Although I give students that warning, I’m an expert at collecting change on the mission field. Have you ever stood in line at a Mexican grocery store trying to buy an item that costs 27 pesos? When it comes to counting out Mexican money, I’m the slowest of the slow. I pull what looks like Monopoly money out of my pocket and experience great stress as I try to figure out how much the funny two-colored one is worth and which is the 10-peso.
Nothing makes sense, so I just pull out a 50-peso bill and get back 23 pesos back in (you guessed it) change. There should be a limit on how much coins weigh. By the end of the first day, my pants pockets are bulging with so many coins that I start shuffling my feet. Carrying my bags of money, I look like a Wells Fargo truck without the truck.
I may not like change, but I have found a good use for it. Every day when I come home, I empty my pockets of coins and add to the stash in what we call our change bucket. I start each day with no coins.
I’ve never been a rich man, but when we took our children on vacation, we would sometimes see signs like “World’s Largest Snake.” My two sons could hardly contain their excitement about the possibility of beholding such a wonder with their own eyes. And the money from our change bucket helped us build some family memories we otherwise couldn’t afford.
Sometimes, our change bucket became the lunch money jar. At other times, we gave the change as a mission offering. And because of our practice of saving change, we always had some extra to use when we needed it.
Right now, our change bucket is overflowing. When that happens, I know it contains about $400. A little becomes a lot, and you’d be surprised how fast it adds up. Now, I’m asking God to take our change and use it to make eternal changes.
Jesus talks about the little things: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.” (Luke 16:10). Teach your children that the test of true character is what a person does with the change. And maybe, keeping track of your change will change … you.