Wednesday, May 29, 2019

You'll never be broke ~ my column from Sunday's paper

A while back, I had to cover a city council meeting in Sumiton. Sometimes it’s hard for me to face this kind of work without a stiff drink, so I stopped in The Blend Coffee Shop to buy a steaming cup of java. 

Pulling the wallet from my pocket, I reached for the gift card my sister had given to me for my birthday. While sliding the card from its holder, a $2 bill fell onto the floor. Picking it up, I smiled. As I tucked it safely back into my wallet, I remembered that this was a gift, too.

The $2 bill was a gift my mom gave me about 40 years ago after Jilda and I married. Mama collected the bills for some reason and kept them squirreled away in her purse. 

One Sunday during a visit to her house, she was sitting in her recliner. Someone had installed a natural gas heater in the old living room fireplace, and it kept the room toast’ish. (Is that a word?) 

As always on Sunday, there was a room full of family members and friends there. It was after lunch, and everyone was stuffed. Some said their goodbyes and headed home. Jilda and I lingered a while longer to help clean up the kitchen.

Afterward, as we sat there, letting the fried chicken digest, a thought occurred to mama, and she reached for her purse. Fumbling around through some of the hidden compartments, she pulled out a small container of $2 bills. She gave both me and Jilda one and said, “Keep this in your pocket, and you’ll never be broke again.” 

Not being broke was important to my mom, who was a child that lived through the Great Depression. She was the middle of 13 children. Times were hard. Her dad kept a handkerchief in his pocket. A nickel and four pennies were tied into one corner of that handkerchief. That was his insurance against being broke. A $2 bill back then would have seemed as big as a sail.

I could go on and on about all the gifts my mom gave to me throughout my life, but that $2 bill was a way of teaching me a valuable life lesson. There were times in her life when she had no money. Those times left a lasting impression. She worked tirelessly to ensure that she would never be broke again.

Recently Don Wilson, who is a 1953 graduate of Dora High, gave me a donation to help pay the expenses for the website. They could have written a check, but Don likes doing the unexpected. His contribution was in $2 bills. I howled when I saw what was in the bag he gave me. When I deposited his donation, I kept several $2 bills. 

Today, my great-nephew Jordan came over to hang out with us and to check on his 4-H chickens that are living in my chicken pen. After he did his feeding and watering chores, we sat on the back deck in the morning sun.  Remembering the $2 bills, I went to my souvenir box and took out one of the bills I’d kept. 

Handing him the bill, he examined it curiously. I’ve been known to pull his leg from time to time, so he was waiting for the punchline. I then showed him my old $2 bill and told him the story behind it. He thanked me for the gift and put it on the dresser next to his iPad so that he wouldn’t forget it.

Only time will tell what Jordan will do with the bill. He might buy a box of those sour atomic worms, but I’d like to think that one day 40 years from now, he will pull his tattered bill from his pocket and remember that he’s never been broke, thanks to Uncle Rick.


  1. I have also given $2 bills as gifts. I have to ask the bank to save them for me when they get some. Remember when they were supposed to be bad luck?

  2. Poverty was a regular visitor while I was growing up, and continued until my late twenties. I am very grateful to have (I hope) left those days behind.

  3. If toast'ish isn't a word, then it should be. I have a $2 bill every now and then but don't collect them. When I was younger, so much younger than today, my dad helped me collect Eisenhower silver dollars and Kennedy half dollars.


  4. Your mama was wise. It's right that you propagate this wisdom through Jordan.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. Great story, great lesson. If I had that $2 bill, I expect I would have spent in during one of my very lean years, hopefully Jordan will have more restraint or less lean than me.

  6. Your columns always kick in some great memories. YES those who came thru the Depression remembered. Same as my mom and dad. Thanks for kicking in the memories. I love the $2 bill. When we visited Monticello if your change was over $2, it came back with at least one $2 bill.
    Anyway enjoyed the column and the THRUST of it.
    Sherry & jack with a nice day in the Carolina's.

  7. Great teaching moment!I still cherish the (remaining) $2 bill my uncle used to give his nieces for our birthdays.


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