By Beverly Stevens, Jan/Feb 1990
Recently, while selecting materials with historical significance for MWS&E’s archives, I found some pieces of foreign money brought back from the many crusades my husband Maurice and I had taken.
The first piece of currency had the word “gourd” on one side and Duvalier’s picture stamped on the other side. I don’t know who brought it from Haiti, but it may have been in my son Dave’s pocket when he returned from his first mission trip with his dad. He was only fourteen, but Maurice wanted Dave to see people who didn’t live like he did.
During his stay in Haiti, Dave spent several days at a mission clinic. This gourd may have been there with him. If it could talk, it probably would have difficulty finding words to describe the line of diseased, malnourished women and children who stood patiently in the hot sun, waiting their turn for treatment. Nurses worked from day light till dark, diagnosing and treating the ill as best they could.
I know Dave’s heart was touched by the people of that island national because he gave away all his clothes there, except the outfit he wore home. I’m surprised he didn’t donate this gourd. But then, he probably didn’t know he had it.
I’ve been to India several times and pauses and rupees are familiar coins. In the market place and streets, I’ve exchanged them for carvings, brass utensils, and crafts to bring home. If these coins had a voice, I’d want them to tell me how the maid who tended the restroom in the train station really felt, each time I placed a few paises in her hands.
I’d love to know what the beggar woman thought as she sat in the street with her emaciated baby, These coins may have spent time in her battered alm box.
And the village woman planting new seedlings in the rice patty, what kind of relationship did she have with her husband? These coins might now. If she were rich enough for them to be hers for a while, she would have carried them in a small drawstring bag under the waist of her sari. There, close to her body, they could have heard her heartbeat and felt her emotions.
There’s so much I’d love to know about the inner spirit of Indian women. If only paises and rupees could talk.
Rummaging through my papers again, I almost overlooked a small, brown envelope. Greece was written on it, so I knew the coins inside were drachmas even though I couldn’t read the inscriptions on them. Maurice may have received this change when we bought tickets to ride the bus to Mars Hill, the Parthenon, and Corinth.
All I remember of Greece is the sweltering heat that made me miserable. I’m saddened to think I visited the sites of that small, historic nation, but I’m unable to identify with its people. Oh, that this coins had the power to change my experiences.
I thought I might find some Liberian currency, but then I remembered, Liberia doesn’t issue paper currency. We used U.S. dollars when we were there.
I recalled our team installed a boiler and made repairs at Phebe Hospital. We also held a spiritual retreat for missionaries working in that section of this African country.
A woman brought in an array of baskets to the meeting. She told why the prisoners in a nearby jail were making them from reeds in the surrounding fields.
The family of each prisoner had to furnish his food. Some families were so poor that they could supply only a little bread now and then; other inmates had no families. Liberian women, distressed over the plight of these men, taught them to weave baskets. The woman at the meeting was selling the baskets so prisoners could have money to buy food.
Quickly, my dollars were on their was to the prisoners. The basket I bought now sits in my den.
While at Phebe Hospital, we drove by the jail. If the dollars that ended up in the men’s pockets could give an inside report, I could learn more about the loneliness and bitterness of hungry men in a place like that.
We Americans often say, “money talks.” We mean, if you have enough money, you can buy status, possessions, and power. But money is cold, heartless, and somewhat deceptive. Those who have a little, want more. Those who have more, never have enough.
A little or a lot of money doesn’t give a heart compassion. Understanding empathy is a gift money cannot buy. The only way this currency could make the world a better place is if money really could talk.