The Value of $4.45

Amy - Frederick, Maryland
Entered on February 22, 2009
Age Group: Under 18
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I believe that you should never underestimate the power and value of a dollar.

Over the summer of 7th grade, my family and I went to China to visit relatives and go sightseeing. While there, I got to see both the good and bad parts of China, from the rich and beautiful cities to the poor countryside villages. It was in one of these areas that I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my life.

My grandmother lives in the outskirts of the city SiChuan. SiChuan itself is a fairly prosperous city with abundant trade and relatively wealthy people. Outside of the urban area of SiChuan, the story changes. My grandmother lives in a rural area, where poverty is common and people live off of their own crops and livestock. Those too sick or injured to work in fields were out of luck. Beggars and the homeless were everywhere, lining the streets or sleeping, tucked away in alleys. It was unfortunate, but there were too many to help, too many needing money or food.

One woman stood out to me. On my way to a bakery with my mother, we passed a poor woman, holding a sign. Though I was already used to the countless beggars I had already seen on the streets, I couldn’t ignore this woman. Both of her legs had been amputated and she had no wheelchair, so she was moving along the streets on a skateboard. One arm was used to push herself down the side of the road and the other was used to hold the sign. The sign had writing, but it was too sloppy for me to read. When I asked my mother what it said, she told me that the woman needed to go to the clinic a few miles away to check on a potential infection in her amputated leg area, but couldn’t walk there like most people did and couldn’t afford a taxi. I felt horrible for the woman. I asked my mom if we could pay for a taxi to get the woman to the clinic, and she agreed. We hailed a cab and helped hoist her into the back. The price for the trip to the clinic and back was 35 Chinese Yuan, the equivalent to about $4.45. The woman thanked us profusely, bowing her head over and over again.

I couldn’t help but think of that woman later on. What would’ve happened had nobody helped her get a taxi? Would she be ok? Had that $4.45 made a difference in her life? The way she had said, “ duo xie, duo xie”, thanking my mother and I over and over again, it was evident how much our help meant to her. Only $4.45. The woman crossed my mind randomly another time at the movie theater when I was paying for my ticket, which was about $10. I felt guilty; that $10 spent for entertainment could have brought the woman to the clinic and back home twice. Instead, I was blowing it on a pointless movie. The next time my friends went to the movies, I opted out. Instead, I kept the money I would’ve spent on the movie hidden away. When Christmas time came around, I went to Wal-Mart and donated the money to a cheerful Salvation Army worker. Sure, it was only ten dollars, but I learned that even that could make a difference.

Ever since my encounter with the handicapped woman in SiChuan, I have been humbled by the value of a dollar. Especially now, during our recession, I understand how far a few dollars can go. Every little bit counts, and I still try to be watchful to not throw money away for simple pleasures like movies or ice cream in the heat of the summer. I still donate money to charities when I can, and I still think about the woman that taught me this valuable lesson. To this day, I still think that the money used to help her was the best $4.45 I’ve ever spent.

This, I believe.