That was certainly the case with a $3 cash register that Wyatt found recently on one of our quick runs to the store.
When I picked him up after work the next afternoon, my mother informed me that he had been playing with the money all day.
She also instructed me that I would need to gather up some items around our house for him to “purchase” in a game of store.
Before we drove away, he whipped out a $100 bill and gave it to her as payment for her babysitting services.
Wyatt allowed Zac and I to share in his newfound wealth as well. For several days, we received tips for almost anything — helping him out of the car, bringing him a juice box, retrieving a lost superhero.
I think he even gave me a few bucks for buying the cash register for him.
Wyatt’s generosity was amusing for two reasons.
First, he is still learning about the various denominations of bills. To him, paper is paper.
He might offer a dollar for goods or services rendered, or he might pull out a couple $100 bills. When we put out our hand to receive his tip, we never knew what we were going to get.
Also, Wyatt never intended for any exchange of money to be permanent. Its proper place was in his cash register.
If I tried to pocket any of it, he would cry, “Mommy, you’re supposed to give it back!”
Wyatt’s attitude toward the fake money reminded me of several conversations I have been having with people lately about the meaning of success.
Although we like to say that money doesn’t buy happiness, our pursuit of the latter usually means acquiring as much as possible of the former.
When we hear of someone we know building a house three times the size of ours or jetting off on an exotic vacation that we will never be able to afford, we mumble, “Must be nice.”
It’s as if we think because that person has money, he or she doesn’t have problems.
The richest person I know had her heart broken once that I know of and I assume many times before and since. Her bank account could neither spare her this pain nor help her put the pieces back together.
She is also one of the nicest people I know. Again, I don’t think this has anything to do with money.
A mayor who spoke at a “Designing After Disaster” workshop I attended several years ago said the tornado that devastated his hometown was not responsible for the residents who became bitter and uncooperative during the recovery process. It only magnified what had been in their hearts all along.
Those who were unhappy before the storm used it as an excuse to become even more so after the tragedy. Those who had always been content with their lot in life continued to inspire their neighbors with their postive attitude after losing everything of mateiral worth.
Conversely, I believe a person who is miserable and cruel today will be just as miserable and cruel even if he or she won the lottery tomorrow.
I recently reread my favorite Fannie Flagg novel, “Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!” In one section, an ambitious young reporter ends up in the hospital with bleeding ulcers after a decade of clawing her way to the top of the network.
Knowing how eager she is to reenter the rat race, her doctor gives her this advice: “I’ve heard it from my patients more times than I can tell you. How they can’t stop now, how they have to keep going till they get that job, that money or success or whatever it is they are running after, but let me tell you something: nothing is worth ruining your health.
“I’ve had some of the richest, most powerful people in the world right here, movie stars, tycoons, kings, begging me to save them, but it’s too late. Believe me, nothing in the world is really important except life and death and that’s it.”
And as even a child knows, our little cash register always gets taken away at the end of the day.
Jennifer Cohron is the features editor at the Daily Mountain Eagle. She can be reached at 221-2840.