In the past year, I’ve been to Guatemala, Hungary and Romania on mission trips. Every trip has been filled with stories – with names and faces and moments that have become souvenirs for my soul. But with every trip comes a souvenir of a different kind – spare change from each destination.
Mixed among the quarters and nickels in my change purse are forint, bani, pence, centavos, lei, euro, and quetzales.
Those coins can’t be readily exchanged in the US. They certainly can’t be used here. They’re a little less than a memory. Actually, they’re a bit of a nuisance. Or they were until last night. A visit to a local burger joint changed everything.
As I paid for my meal, forint spilled onto the counter. The young man at the cash register smiled, his eyes lighting up like a kid at Christmas. In broken English, he offered to pay me for the change. “I collect money from other countries,” he shared. “I have money from 29 countries now.” I handed him the change and told him it was from Hungary – a brand new country in his collection. His eyes welled up with tears. I had no idea why.
My friend Shelby and I sat down at our table, and I pulled out the rest of the change from my purse. She and I sorted it by country, and motioned for the young man to come over. Overwhelmed by the generosity, he shared his new fortune with his co-workers.
His manager came to our table. “You’ve made such an impact on my employee tonight. He’s from Mexico, and he’s here to make a better life for his family. He’s the hardest working guy on my team. He collects coins so he can teach his little girl about the world. He wants her to have the best life ever.”
With the simple act of giving, those coins were transformed. No longer were they a nuisance. To the young father, they became treasure. No longer were they less than a memory. To his little girl, they became world adventures. No longer did they hold little value. With an exchange, those little coins became priceless.
I wonder how many times I’ve carried someone else’s treasure, how many times I’ve been blind to the beauty of transformation that comes with the exchange. What about you? What treasure are you holding?