“Silver Dollars and Silver Boxes”


I found myself laughing and telling this story the other day, and after telling it I began to reflect and realize how we carry our stories with us everyday, everywhere we go. We shape ourselves into the characters of those stories. So when you tell your story weather it be to yourself or someone else, be careful the role you choose for yourself.

“Silver Dollars”

As a child I loved going to my grandparents house. Well, Grandmom and Grandpop Manlio that is. Those were the grandparents whose house always smelled like warm bread and old garlic. (if you’re Italian you get that.) always seemed to have my favorite cookies, served me tea in a china cup and kept a coffee can full of crayons with a coloring book in a drawer tucked away for me. We went there often.

Then there was Grandmom and Grandpop Lewis, now don’t get me wrong the love was certainly there, but I just never felt quite as comfortable. The garlic and bread smell  was replaced with stale cigarettes and cigar, and usually me and my brother sat on the couch quietly while the adults talked. What I did love was how my grandmom everytime we left would stand on the front step, waving and yelling “tootles” at the car pulling away. My grandfather although he wasn’t really scary at all, to a little girl was quite intimidating . His tattooed navy arms had large worn hands, one that held a cane and the other a blunt end of a half smoked cigar. He rarely said much to me, but always greeted me with a smile and pulled a silver dollar out of his pocket to present to me and my brother with every visit. I would go home each time and place my new silver dollar in my special hiding place. A little silver box tucked under some old blankets in a drawer.

One day I decided it was time to spend my silver dollars. I was in the 2nd grade, and believe me I knew this was a choice I probably shouldn’t discuss with anyone. About once a week while walking to school I’d stop at the candy store and buy one dollar’s worth of candy. Um, I’m 48, do you have any idea how much candy you could buy for a dollar 40 years ago? A lot! I’d leave the store with my little brown paper bag full, dump it into my desk and through the week randomly award my classmates with a piece of candy. I was the freaking candyman!!! Until a crossing guard alerted my mom to the fact she thought it was unusual she saw me coming out of the candy store with so much loot every week. Needless to say the gig was up, and I probably was never more scared for my life then when my mother confronted me.

The keychain above was my grandfather’s. I’ve carried it with me off and on for years. And it serves as a small reminder “always give even if you might get your ass kicked for doing so.” I loved as a child that feeling I got when my classmates lit up, or a kid that was having a bad day I could make smile, because I chose to be kind to them. It was being “able” to give that made me happy not necessarily having the candy.

Many years later I read a book by Florence Littauer called “Silver Boxes”. The book was about this poem she had written. And in an instant I realized how the box had been just as important as the actual treasures. Use your words thoughtfully, you never know there impact.

“My words were harsh and hasty

And they came without a thought.

Then I saw the pain and anguish

That my bitter words had brought.

Bitter words that I had spoken

Made me think back through the past; 

Of how many times I’d uttered

Biting words whose pain would last.

Then I wondered of the people

I had hurt by things I’d said;

All the ones I had discouraged

When I didn’t use my head.

Then I thought about my own life.

Of painful words I’ve heard;

And of the times I’d been discouraged

By a sharp and cruel word.

And now clearly I remember

All the things I might have done;

But, by a word I was discouraged

And they never were begun.

Lord, help my words be silver boxes.

Neatly wrapped up with a bow;

That I give to all so freely,

As through each day I gladly go.

Silver boxes fill of treasure,

Precious gifts from God above;

That all the people I encounter

Might have a box of God’s own love.”


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