From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Dad’s Gift

Love only grows by sharing. You can only have more for yourself by giving it away to others.

Brian Tracy

Friday nights our 1960 household bustled with activity. Mom and Dad often went bowling, and I liked to sleep over with my girlfriends. At eighteen, my brother’s weekends were filled with dates and school sports.

One winter Friday, both darkness and the temperature were falling when Joe rushed madly through the house searching for ready cash. His school’s basketball team was in an important play-off game that evening. A win would send them to the state finals. Mom cleaned out her purse, and Dad emptied his pockets. Even little sister shook her piggy bank dry, but Joe was still short the price of admission.

“It’s only the most important game of the season,” he moaned in typical teenage fashion.

Dad checked his watch. The bank was closed, and in those days local grocery stores did not cash checks for more than the amount of purchase. He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know what to tell you, son. We just don’t have it.”

Joe and his long face retired to the bedroom. No door slamming or yelling ensued. It wouldn’t have helped. He sadly accepted the facts. He’d just have to miss the most important sports contest of his senior year.

Dad followed suit and went to his own bedroom. A few moments later he walked into the kitchen carrying an old cigar box. This was no ordinary cigar box. I recognized it as the box containing Dad’s treasured coin collection. Mom and I looked at each other in amazement. For years Dad had saved every blackened nickel, every tarnished dime. He never spent pennies, but set them aside to later check the mint marks.

At least once a month, he and I dumped all those pennies and other coins onto the kitchen table and sorted them according to mint marks. D was for Denver, S for San Francisco, and no letter meant the penny was minted in Philadelphia. The blank ones were not considered valuable, but Dad thought D and S coins might someday be worth—well—a mint.

That Friday evening as game time neared, Dad didn’t sort through coins, and he didn’t scan the mint marks. He merely counted out the amount Joe needed for his ticket. Then he hurried to his son’s bedroom and poured the coins into Joe’s hand.

“I can’t take this,” my brother protested. “This is your coin collection. This is important to you.”

“It’s only money,” said Dad with a grin. “I can get more. This basketball game will only happen once. Go on, now, before you miss the bus.”

Joe gave Dad an awkward hug before shrugging into his coat and running out the back door, calling “Thank you” as it slammed. Once he was gone, Dad calmly scooped the remaining coins into the battered cigar box and returned it to its place on the dresser.

I was stunned, unable to believe Dad had willingly parted with something of such value. How many hours of careful coin sorting had my brother stuffed into his coat pocket? We were not a rich family. I wondered how many years it would take my father to replace that pocketful of coins. Without a doubt, one or two of them were irreplaceable.

At age eleven I didn’t really grasp the value of time or the worth of money. I didn’t know much about sacrifice, but that night I learned a lesson about fatherhood that would last a lifetime.

That wintry Friday evening I got a good look at a father’s heart, and I discovered it was made of love.

June Williams

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