Only a Few Pesos


Only a Few Pesos

Tomás looked at the money in his hand and sighed. Two hundred pesos—not nearly enough. There were three fifty-peso pieces, two twenty-peso pieces, and one of the five-sided coins that Tomás called “cuadrados” (squares). The ten-peso coin wasn’t really square, of course, but Tomás liked the way the word sounded. He looked around him. The streets were almost empty now; soon it would be dark. With another sigh, Tomás picked up his shoeshine box and started home.

Tomás lived in Santa María, a small town in northern Mexico. Every day after school, he walked up and down the dusty, unpaved streets looking for shoes to shine or odd jobs to do. He had to help his mother; his father had been killed two years ago in an accident at work. Tomás had four sisters and a brother, and his mother didn’t make enough money doing washing and sewing to feed everyone. But Tomás never complained. He was proud to be considered the man of the house at such an early age!

“Hello, Tomás.” Doña Eva was standing beside her gate, holding a soda bottle. “Will you do me a favor? Would you buy me a drink at the store? You may keep the change, but please don’t be too long—I am very thirsty.”

Tomás put down his box and took the bottle. “I’ll be right back,” he called as he raced down the street.

Santa María was so small that only the school and one store had electricity. Most of Santa María’s people didn’t even want electric lights. Here and there, oil lamps made strange, dancing shapes on the street.

Tomás was almost at the store when he stopped in astonishment. Two huge, shiny trucks were in the tiny plaza. Surrounding the trucks were villagers, some of them with armloads of clothing or blankets. With surprise, Tomás saw his own mother handing a brightly colored serape to a man in the truck. The long, narrow blanket was his mother’s favorite, a gift to her from his father. “Mamá! What are you doing?” he cried, running over to her.

“Remember how we heard of a great earthquake farther south? There are many who have lost both loved ones and homes. I cannot give much, but I want to send something that will help.”

“But you love that serape! Papá …”

Tomás’s mother smiled. “Your father would want to give something, Tomás. And I love my sisters and brothers, too. Remember that as children of God, we are all family, son. I want to send a little love and comfort to someone who needs it more right now.” She saw the soda bottle. “That must be for Doña Eva,” she said. “She is always impatient for her soda, Tomás. Run; do your errand for her.”

Tomás did as he was told, but not happily. He felt guilty about his very selfish thoughts, but he couldn’t help them. “How can anyone have less than we do?” he asked himself. “My mother never has anything new. We eat only beans and tortillas. Someday I will have much money, and then I will give. Not now!”

In the store, Tomás paid for the soft drink. He counted his change to be sure it was right. He was very proud of his reputation for integrity.

“Send Tomás,” Doña Eva always said when someone needed an errand run. “He’s a good, honest boy.” Remembering that the change was his, Tomás carefully put it into his empty pocket. He was about to go, when he noticed the newspaper on the store counter.

There were pictures of the earthquake damage—fallen buildings and huge cracks in the streets. In one corner was a picture of a tiny child. Tears filled Tomás’s eyes as he read the caption: Brave Boy Loses Life to Save Baby Sister. Tomás thought of his younger brother and sisters. They were often noisy little pests, but he was glad that they were there, filling the small house with happiness. Tonight he would tell them that he loved them!

When Tomás passed the plaza again, all the villagers were gone. The trucks were still parked there, and Tomás stared at them. The coins in his pocket were heavy and cold. He had planned to put aside ten percent of his money for tithing, a few pesos for his savings, and give the rest to his mother. The money was important to his family, and it wasn’t enough to help anyone, anyway.

He couldn’t forget the picture in the paper, though. Why had he looked at it? But his mother was right—he had a lot. He had her, his brother, and his sisters. Tomás smiled a little. He even had dreams, big dreams. What was it his father used to say? “If you have dreams, and if you have faith, you have much.” He turned and walked back to the nearest truck. “It’s only a few pesos,” he said, holding out all except his tithing money.

The man took the coins and smiled at Tomás. “Thanks, son. It’s more than you know. There are people in need of medicine, even babies without food. Believe me, every peso will help someone live. Thank you!”

Tomás thought of the baby in the picture. Maybe his money would help her. But the important thing was that it would help someone. He said good-bye and hurried on toward Doña Eva’s house. “Thank thee, Father, for giving me so much!” he prayed aloud.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown