Thursday, May 31, 2012


I noticed a dime in the parking lot today and picked it up.
Walked along, wondering.

Do you ever think about how strange money is?

We tend to treat it as if it's a thing, an object.
Money is not an object. It's time.

I receive money based on how much time I work at my job. If we sell something we've made for money, it's still about time - the time we spent making the object. Just about every way you can think of that we obtain money is tied to time spent doing something - if not our time, then someone else's time. We talk about gross and net, profit and loss, but really we're talking about time.*

Take my current salary, divide it by the hours I work**, divide the hours into minutes, the minutes into seconds.

10¢ = about 8 seconds

What can I do in 8 seconds?

Say, "Hi, how are you?" "Fine, how are you?" "I'm fine, thanks."
Walk up a flight of stairs
Put a batch of rice in the rice cooker
Tune 2 of the strings on my ukulele
Pull the clothes out of the dryer
Post attendance for one class
Wipe a counter
Hug my husband
Dig out 2 dandelions
Wash my hands (but they're still wet)
Send a short txt message
Walk to the mailbox
Smile warmly 3 times
Miss you

My heart can beat 8 times

I think this is taking me somewhere. Thinking about what I value most. How I "spend" my time.

Or maybe I've got this all wrong. Before I went back to college and became a teacher, I was blessed to be a full time stay-at-home mom for fifteen precious years. Other than earning a little money for offering occasional childcare in my home, I didn't earn any money at all. What was my time worth then? How much did my heartbeats cost in those years? Snuggling a nursing infant? Washing diapers? Ferrying children to and from school?

Even though my retirement income will always be lower because I spent those years at home, I would not trade them for any amount of money.

What about the women in the poorest areas of the world, the ones who don't earn a penny, who walk for hours and miles every day just to get dirty water for their families, and they do it day after day after day after day? Just because they don't have a salary, will never have more than the tiniest amounts of money in their lives, does that mean that their lives are less valuable than mine? Of course not.

Now I'm not sure what my dime means, after all.

The more I try to think this through, the more my head goes in circles. A hug with my sweet husband is worth more than ten cents.


We have several dear family members flying in from out of state to visit us this summer. Give or take a little, most of their plane tickets cost around $500. So if a dear granddaughter comes for a week, and hugs me three times a day, then each hug is worth 32 minutes. $24.00. Whose money? Whose time? Mine, or the child's parent that bought the ticket? Who, by the way, was compensated for their time at a job, and who used the money to buy the ticket to bring the granddaughter to Oregon to give Grandma a hug or two or twenty.

You think I am foolish for trying to quantify things that can't (shouldn't?) be quantified.

And yet there was a dime in the parking lot this morning.
And I'm still wondering about it.

This dime isn't going into my purse. Maybe it's 8 free heartbeats. Maybe it's a life-changing lesson, a sign, worth far more than ten cents. 

For now, I am keeping my dime taped to my computer desktop, where it is an in-my-face reminder to think about moments, which are precious and holy and probably can't be measured out in coins.

*I'm not sure how this works for interest earned. I tried to think that through and it made my brain hurt.

*"Hours worked" for a teacher, of course, is a deceptive number. A shifting target. Plenty of hours spent at home grading papers and planning lessons. Depends on the month, the day. For this exercise, I only counted my contract hours, not the extra evening hours. If I added those in, the 10¢ is probably worth 5 or so seconds.


Dorothy said...

Oooh. I like this. Worth thinking about, even if it does make one dizzy. :)

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

There have been lots of times over the last few years where I have simultaneously felt that my time was completely unvalued, by me or anyone else. Other times I can see that simply knowing something, being able to explain it clearly and understanding what needed to happen was literally priceless, spiritually, monetarily and intrinsically.

This has made me think quite a bit. I had planned this morning's post on my blog long before I read this one, but I think that in some ways they both relate back to how we spend our time, and how those choices can help make or break our relationships with other people.

Thank you so much for this post. I am sure that ruminating on it will bring out a poem or two.

Katie Lewis said...

Haha. When I first saw the title of this post in my blog reader I totally thought it was going to be a post about the old "Dime!" Spanish textbooks. :)