After taking thousands of students to the mission field, I noticed a pattern. In days gone by, most of the students could count change in their head. With the inventions of computers and cash registers, the average cashier lets the machine do the work.
Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, learning how to make change was an essential part of life’s training. I really didn’t have to think about it. If I sold an item for $3.12 and the buyer gave me a $5 bill, I would automatically do the math and give back $1.88.
Today, I took two-thirds of the Yada Hoodies to the dollar store—you know, the store where every item costs $1. We don’t do it often, but when it comes to our grandsons, we don’t let money stand in the way. We gave them each $1, opened the door and told them they could pick one item, anything their heart desired.
Titus the Honorable got excited. “Poppy, I have always wanted to come to this store!” I am not sure why he doesn’t remember the last five times I brought him to a dollar store, but to his credit, this was his first visit to this particular store. The boys walked throughout the store, inspecting, evaluating and picking up an item, then putting it back, only to get something else. After handling almost every object once and some twice, they returned to one of the first items they touched.
As we headed to the checkout lane, my wife gave the boys each a quarter, and we had a lesson on taxes. They had a hard time understanding why, if everything cost a dollar, they also needed a quarter. We explained that taxes pay for the roads, the firefighters, schools and other essentials needed to run a city. I had each grandson pay for his own item. The cashier rang up the item, took his money and laid the dollar and quarter on the counter, not giving them back any change. She did that with both grandsons, and then my wife wanted to buy two birthday cards. The cashier rang up her purchase and told her it would be $4.88. She took my wife’s $5 bill and laid it on the counter next to the $1.25 each from our grandsons.
Then the cashier told us the cash register wasn’t working right. It wasn’t telling her how much change she should give back, so we would have to wait for someone to fix it.
I could tell my wife was about to boil over. If it weren’t for the restraint of the Holy Spirit and the two grandsons standing beside her, I think she would have taken that cashier to school. I can see her almost shouting, “My change is 12 cents!”
One of the more experienced cashiers came over and tried to help the young woman. “If someone gives you $5 for a $4.88 item, how much should they get back?” The young lady just stood there looking into space as if the answer would come floating down.
The older cashier reached into the cash register tray and picked up two pennies and a dime, showing the younger one that one more penny made it $4.89 and a second penny would make it $4.90. If she added a dime to the total, it would come to $5. The people in line behind us were watching. We got our 12 cents, and as I walked away, I glanced back and saw the customer behind us pull out a credit card for a dollar item. Smart man.
Jesus said, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things’” (Matt. 25:23a).
Teaching your children God’s perspective on money should be a parent’s priority. Teach them to guard the pennies as well as the dollars. Teach them to give 10 percent of their money back to God for the work of the ministry. Then teach them the other 90 percent of their money also belongs to God. Teach them the privilege of working for money. Teach them how to save for the difficult times. Teach them to have a giving heart. Teach your children today, or you will be the one paying tomorrow.
My wife’s parents would sit down with a bag of money and make her practice counting out change. They also paid her a salary, and she had to figure out a tithe and put that in her Sunday school envelope.
Thank you, Richard and June Silver, for training my wife how to be wise with money. I have benefited from those teachings for more than 46 years, and so have thousands of others. The right change … changed our lives.