The Dollar


A dollar bought much more in 1947 than it does now. I was seven years old then and in the second grade at Woodland Elementary School. Emily was in my class, and I truly detested her because she was forever bragging about everything. One day she bragged that she could bring a whole dollar to school the next day—just to spend on candy! She was sure that I couldn’t. She really made me mad, and so what else could I do but retort that I, too, could bring a dollar the next day to spend on candy. Of course, I didn’t have a dollar, but somehow I had to get one.

My grandmother lived with us, and I planned to “borrow” a dollar from her purse, then put it back after I had shown it to Emily at school. I waited until I was alone in the same room with Grandma’s purse. I knew I was doing wrong, but I disregarded the Holy Ghost’s warning, telling myself, I’m only borrowing the money. What harm can there be in that?

The next morning I put Grandma’s dollar into my pocket and waited for the school bus. When I bragged about having a whole dollar to spend on candy, even though I didn’t plan to actually spend it, I found out that I was the most popular child in the neighborhood. Everyone wanted to be my best friend! The glory of that moment was simply wonderful. It was so wonderful, in fact, that I decided to spend the whole dollar on candy, after all.

Carol, my best friend, begged and begged me to let her take the dollar to her class that morning. She would give it back to me at lunchtime. She begged so hard that I finally let her take it.

I expected Emily to be waiting for me at the classroom door to see my dollar, but she wasn’t. In fact, when she did come to class, she didn’t mention her dollar or my dollar. This was a surprise, but I was greatly relieved. Now I was free to change my mind again and put the money back into Grandma’s purse.

I was busy doing my schoolwork when Mr. Apple, the school principal, came into the classroom and said, “Ann Jensen, come with me, please.”

Trembling, I followed the principal to an empty classroom, where he pulled something out of his pocket and said, “Carol was playing with this money in her class this morning. Mrs. Brown felt that it was a lot of money for a child to be playing with, so she asked her about it. Carol said that it’s your money. Is that right?”

I was so taken by surprise that for a moment I couldn’t think of a thing to say. Finally I looked at the floor and said, “Yes, I saved it.”

“All this money?” Mr. Apple asked in an even voice.

For the first time I took a good look at the “dollar.” It wasn’t one dollar, but ten dollars! I had been in such a rush to get the money from Grandma’s purse that I hadn’t noticed that I’d taken a ten-dollar bill!

With tears streaming down my cheeks, I sobbed, “I took it out of my grandma’s purse.”

The awful truth had been told, and at first I felt relieved for having confessed my sin. Then Mr. Apple told me that he was going to call my grandmother and tell her about the money. That was what I dreaded most—Grandma’s disappointment in me!

I was engulfed with remorse. I just leaned against the school building during recess because I felt so ashamed and sorrowful.

Mr. Apple drove me home from school that day. We rode in silence. I wondered what I could say to my family and what they would do to me for stealing Grandma’s money. When he stopped in front of my house, Mr. Apple gave me the ten-dollar bill to return to my grandmother.

Grandma was at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes for dinner.

“I don’t feel very well,” I said as I handed her the ten dollars.

“I don’t suppose you would,” she replied. And that was that!

I went into my bedroom to get over my “illness.” Nothing else was ever said of the incident. Nothing else had to be.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie F. Young