Five Bucks: A Life Lesson in Community

At five o’clock, the doorbell rang; and immediately, Thales wailed.

It wasn’t really the doorbell’s fault. It was the “witching hour”.

(WITCHING HOUR: The time of day when a child casts aside his God-given character in exchange for an unreasonable, erratic, emotion-driven persona. This recurring phenomenon begins at approximately quarter to five in the evening and continues, without mercy, until the child is fed, bathed, and, finally, tucked into bed for the night.)

I had been cooking spaghetti and meatballs on the stove, trying not to splash scalding sauce onto one-year-old Thales who was on the floor, clinging to my pant legs. He had been whimpering and rubbing his teary, snotty face against my jeans.

This was when the doorbell rang. 

Five Bucks: A Lesson in Community

Upon hearing the ding-dong of the bell, I quickly gave the sauce another stir, then bent over to heave all twenty-six pounds of my baby boy onto my right hip.

Together, we made for the door, not knowing that I was about to learn a life lesson in community.

On our way, we passed through the hall, where three-year-old Tyson was playing with a wooden train set. I cautiously maneuvered between the toys strewn across my path.

By the time we reached the door, Thales was calm. He had gotten what he wanted: a ride. He dangled. I did all the heavy lifting. I bumped him higher, above my hip bone, to keep him from slipping along the side of my body and down to the cold tile.

I opened the door. A blast of cold air hit me in the face.

page feature pic.pngThere on my doorstep, standing in a swirling cloud of snow, was a young boy. He was holding a large blue shovel. I guessed he was about ten. From head to toe, the boy was covered in snow gear. At least, I assumed he was. I couldn’t really see his boots underneath all the white fluff.

“Would you like your driveway shoveled?” he asked. His eyebrows rose, just slightly, with the intonation of his voice.

Do I want my driveway shoveled?

I wasn’t sure. No one had ever asked me that before. I had grown up in the country, so this was my first experience having a neighbor kid wander to my door, trying to earn cash.

There was an awkward pause while I processed.

Meanwhile, Thales squirmed. No longer happy to merely hang loose, he climbed up my shoulder and stretched his little hand toward my ponytail. He yanked. My head jolted back. Thales giggled.

Five Bucks: A Life Lesson in Community
Thales – So, this picture has nothing to do with the story, but look at this cute little munchkin! Now, imagine him crying, drooling, and then yanking on my hair.

I shifted my arm under his diapered bottom – which felt grossly full – and tugged Thales back down to my waist.

Thales smiled at me and drooled. Using both hands this time, he pinched my collar bone. Squeeze. Release. Squeeze. Release. I cringed, wishing I had taken time earlier in the day to clip his too-long finger nails.

“Five bucks,” the boy on my doorstep offered.

I had almost forgotten he was there.

My mind searched for an answer. We were on a tight budget. Plus, I was sure Justin would have time to clear the snow after supper. If not, I could shovel the next day while the boys napped.  

Behind me, Tyson started having a fit. He had, apparently, dropped a wooden train on his big toe and was vowing never to play with train tracks ever again and did we have any Band-Aids left and when was Dad coming home and he didn’t want spaghetti for supper… (If you can relate to this scene, check out this post, too!)

Five Bucks: A Life Lesson in Community
Tyson – So cute. Pre-fit, of course.

“I’m sorry,” I finally blurted, “but my husband usually takes care of the driveway. Thanks, anyway.”

The boy with the blue shovel nodded and turned to leave. I think I saw his shoulders fall. His eyebrows, definitely.

Thales let go of my collar bone and jammed a finger into my ear canal. I yelped, unstuck his finger, and hip-checked the door closed.

Heading back to the kitchen, I felt a little sad: but I didn’t know why. I had no time to dwell on it, however: there was a ripe diaper squishing against my forearm that needed to be changed, an injured patient squawking in the hall that needed tending, and supper was burning on the stove.

Five Bucks: A Life Lesson in Community

If I knew eight years ago what I know now, I would have paid the five bucks.

Two years ago, at ages eight and six, my boys hosted their first garage sale.

The sale took place quite early on a warm, sunny Saturday morning in May.

Tyson and Thales eagerly dragged the patio table to the end of our gravel driveway. Then, with great care, they priced and displayed their wares:

  • several rubber-banded packages of hockey trading cards;
  • one puzzle book, which they no longer found entertaining;
  • nine assorted Hot Wheels cars, jumbled in a cardboard box; and
  • a shiny, blue dollar-store ceramic piggy bank.

After preparing a cash float and storing it securely in a Ziplock container, the boys settled back into two cushioned patio chairs. They were totally chill — ready to make the big bucks.

I was anxious, watching them through the dining room window.

Will they sell anything? Will they be disappointed?

After half-an-hour, I went outside to see how they were doing.

page feature pic (1).png

Thales was sitting cross-legged, shielding his eyes from the sun. He looked hot.

Tyson was slouching with his arms splayed over the sides of his patio chair. He looked deflated.

“Mom,” Tyson groaned when he saw me coming. “We’ve been sitting here for HOURS and we haven’t sold ANYTHING.”

“Well,” I said, “having a garage sale is kind of boring. You just sit here and wait for people to come by.”

Tyson shook his head and jumped out of his seat.

“I quit,” he said. “We’ll probably be here all day and only make, like, two dollars. And then, I won’t have any time to walk around to the other garage sales and buy something.”

He started packing up – without conferring with his business partner, mind you – just as a young mom pushing a stroller with two kids drew near. She greeted the boys with a cheerful “good morning!” and then perused the hockey cards.

Tyson stopped packing. He and Thales waited with anticipation…

and they were not disappointed. The woman picked out one pack of cards and handed over the marked sale price: a whopping fifty cents.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Watching from behind the table, my heart melted with gratitude.

“Have you sold anything else, yet?” she asked, tucking her purchase into the basket at the bottom of the stroller.

“You’re our first customer!” Tyson said, dropping two quarters into the Ziplock.

“Well,” she said, walking away, “good luck!”

Tyson turned to Thales. “Bro, I bet we make at least twenty bucks today!”

They were back in business.tyson-and-thales.jpg

About mid-morning, I came outside again, this time to bring the boys a snack. As I passed them sandwiches and cups of ice water, Thales informed me that they had already made over fifteen dollars, collectively. He was thrilled.

While I listened, another customer appeared.

She was an older lady with a serious look about her. Approaching the table, she immediately zeroed in on the Hot Wheels collection and proceeded to inquire of the boys as to the various features of each toy car on display. Taking them out, one by one, she tested each of the vehicles by driving them several inches along the glass table top. She commented on such things as the smoothness of the ride and the condition of the product.

page feature pic (3).pngThis exchange went on for several minutes. She seemed to be having a difficult time deciding, although I suspected it was a ruse when I saw the corner of her mouth tip upward at one point during their conversation.

Finally, she settled on four small cars. The lady handed two dollars to Thales – who was elated because the cars she had chosen came from his merchandise – and, without so much as an “adieu”, continued on down the road.

I was in awe.

My heart yearned to possess the giftedness I had witnessed in these two women: the gift of seeing. (Read more about how God sees you here and how you can see others better here.) They saw people. They saw everyday moments as opportunities to show love. They saw beyond themselves.

I wanted that. I wanted to be like the angels I’d met on my driveway that day.

I still want it.

Tyson and Thales are older, now – almost eleven, and nine – and have broadened their scope of money-making enterprises…

Would you believe they shovel driveways for cash?

Fortunately, we live on a street where the neighbors are often willing to pay two young boys five bucks to clear some snow. The boys come home sweaty and sore. They return with a shovel in one hand and cash in the other. And they are beaming with accomplishment.

I can attest to the fact that, despite our inflated economy, five dollars can still go a long way.

So, I say:

Five Bucks: A Life Lesson in Community

And, thank you Father God for patiently teaching me.

Keep opening my eyes. I want to see better.

Keep opening my heart. I want to love more.

And, when absolutely necessary, keep opening my wallet so I’ll be willing to pay the neighbor kid five bucks.

What is one sweet thing that a family or community member has done for your child? Share in the comment section below.

With love,

Sara Jane Kehler


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