Sometimes, you can stumble upon a treasure by accident. You scrounge around some tag sale and buy a $4 picture because you like the frame only to find an original printing of the Declaration of Independence. Or like this guy who found some of Ansel Adams earliest glass negatives and haggled the guy having the garage sale down from $70 to $45. When I read the story, I thought….$45!!! Who spends $45 for anything at a garage sale? Furthermore, what sane rummage sale aficionado could write $70 on a strip of masking tape and think anyone would make a hit. Maybe garage sales in California are higher end. Garage sales of the stars?
Other times, you have a nearly priceless treasure siting on the end table or inside the curio cabinet and are unaware of its real value. You keep it and display it because you like it. It retains shelf space because it has nostalgic importance. Sometimes it is out of sheer whimsy; the item brings you pleasure and you couldn’t think of parting with it for a thousand dollars. Moreover, that someone might offer you a thousand dollars for the stupid wagon wheel coffee table only serves to highlight how distorted our sense of worth has become.
What do we do with the things we value most? Indeed, what determines what we value most? We value that which has genuine value? Is it those items with rising market value that we protect? Is it easier to discard or donate that which has lost value and no longer demands as much currency?
I have no idea if the Civil War commemorative stamps will ever have real value, but they were issued in 1995 less than a year before Cameron was born. I have a full sheet and I have complete set with first day cancellations marks from the Charleston post office. Charleston being where the first shots were fired and the place our nation’s civil war started is significant since it is also where my first child was born. To me, the stamps are a treasure.
Sometimes, treasure lies at our feet or right before our eyes and we never realize it. We walk all over it and risk making it threadbare. We misuse it and treat it like the easily expendable and replaceable. Sometimes it is only after we have lost something, ruined it, irreversibly stained it or given it away for $4 that we learn we had an abundant bounty. We only appreciate it after we have lost it or someone else has it.
As I walked into Target today to look at bedspreads and coverlets, I saw a folded envelope on the ground, just outside the automatic doors. I picked it up and realized it was a white, bank envelope, like you get in from the drive through teller in the air tube. I opened the envelope and saw crisp, green $20 bills. ALOT of them. I paused momentarily and then walked directly to the customer service desk and handed it to the store manager. I then watched them count the money and put it inside their register! They wrote down the amount, but never took my name. I walked away kind of kicking myself for being such an honest person. I figured that the money would go into the shift manager’s pocket when the drawers were counted. It just kept bugging me, so I was determined to go back to the counter and demand the police be called. For a $500 find, I felt the authorities should take custody of the money. As I approached the desk, I saw a young man signing for the envelope. He had dropped it. The money was his fiancee’s. And it amounted to a treasure by my cursory assessment of him. I instantly felt better for having turned it in. While I had kicked myself for being so honest….I could have used the $500….when I looked at this young man, I realized that for him the $500 was a far greater LOSS for him than the $500 gain would have been for me.
So much around me is truly valuable but almost none of it can be bought, traded, bartered or appraised. I can’t place it on eBay or Etsy. What I value is not tangible. I value my children, my mother, my sisters, my friends, my memories, my knowledge, my health, my senses, my wit, my sarcasm, my intuition, my fear, my faith and my passion. And I don’t think anyone would give me a single dime for any of it. On the other hand, I know that what I have is envied greatly by those who do not have it. The fact that I cannot give it away makes it all the more priceless.