Jon and Brent could hardly wait to leave on vacation. Mom and Dad had talked with them the night before about all the interesting places they would be visiting and had given each of them some spending money. This money, Dad explained, was their very own and they could choose how they would spend it. However, it was all the money they would have for the entire trip, and when it was gone they would not be able to buy anything more. Both boys said this was fine with them! They would take care not to lose it and would think very hard before spending it all.
Brent immediately asked Mom if she would put his money envelope in her purse and keep it for him until he was sure he was ready to spend it. But Jon liked the feel of his own money in his own pocket, so he decided to take care of his own. Soon they were off on their big adventure.
After they had travelled for several hours, Dad stopped to get some gas. Inside the station there was candy and a few small toys for sale. Brent and Jon both looked at everything there was to be had, and some things did look like they would taste good. “I like red licorice,” Brent said to Jon, “and I haven’t had any for a long time, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. I think I’ll save my money.” “I don’t think I’ll get any candy either,” Jon replied. “They don’t have my favorite, anyway. Besides, Mom said we’ll stop for a picnic soon.” Jon fingered the money in his pocket. Some of the travel games did look fun, but he still had things to do in the bag he had packed to entertain himself in the car. Later that day, Mom pulled into the parking lot of a large store. “I need to run in here and get some mosquito repellant before we camp tonight,” Mom said. “I’ll only be a minute.”
“Can we go in, too?” chimed both boys together.
“I guess so,” Mom agreed. “It’ll give you a chance to stretch your legs.”
Brent and Jon told Mom she’d find them in the toy section when she was ready to leave and began immediately to scan the shelves. “Look at these roller skates!” Brent called to Jon. “Someday I want a pair just like these. We could skate on the bike path in the park.” When Jon did not come to look at the skates, Brent went looking for him. He found him struggling to get a bag with a plastic marble game in it down from a high shelf. It was a new game that neither boy had seen before. “This looks great! And I have enough money right here to buy it!” Jon announced. “Just think of all the fun we can have in the car with this!”
“But Jon, that will take nearly all your money! What about all the special places we will be going? I’m sure they will have wonderful things to buy, but you’ll have no money left. You better ask Mom before you buy that.” Brent instructed.
“I don’t have to ask anyone, least of all you!” Jon snapped. “Dad says this money is mine and I can do anything I please with it! You just take care of your money and I’ll take care of mine.”
Just at that moment Mom called to the boys that she was finished. When they met her at the cashiers she was a little surprised to see Jon with the marble game. “What do you have there?” she asked?
“A wonderful new game that I have decided to buy with my own money.” Jon informed her.
Are you sure this is how you want to spend most of your money?” Mom questioned. “We have many fun places to visit where you may find other things you would like to buy.”
“I want to buy this,” Jon insisted. And buy it he did.
Back in the car, Jon opened his bag and for quite a long while forgot about everything else while he learned how to play his new game. It had a snapper which shot marbles into a large open area full of pegs. Eventually the marble bounced into one of several compartments at the bottom each worth a certain number of points. It was fun, so it was quite a long time before Jon began to tire of it and look for something else to do. Even the next day and the next he enjoyed the game for a while each day. But then it happened. The snapper that shot the marbles around the pegs suddenly broke off in his hands. Now there was no way to shoot the marbles, no way to play the game. Jon felt bad for a while, but they were having so much fun on the trip he soon forgot about it.
“Today we will be stopping at our country’s first Pony Express Office,” Dad told the boys early one morning. “A long time ago, mail was carried across our country by men on horseback,” he continued. “There were post offices all along the way where they stopped to change horses and riders. You will see one of them and learn more about the riders in just about an hour now. I think you will enjoy.”
The boys were excited. They had read all about the Pony Express. But what would it really be like? They were not disappointed. At the old post office there was a man dressed up like one of the riders who told his story and then answered questions. Inside there was a little store where they sold old fashioned candy, copies of old newspapers from the days of the Pony Express, and wonderful hats and belt buckles like the riders wore.
Brent and Jon pressed their noses against the glass case full of buckles. “I think I would like one of those, right over there,” Brent pointed out to Jon.
“I like the one up in the right-hand corner,” Jon replied. “Let’s see if Dad will get us one.”
“Hey Dad, look at these!” Brent called. “Can we get one for each of us? I like that one, and Jon likes this one.”
“Sure boys,” Dad replied, “if that’s what you decide you want to spend your money on, I will get the clerk to help you.”
“I’ll get my money from Mom,” Brent called to Jon. “Dad will get someone to help us.”
Brent returned with his envelope from Mom’s purse. He found Jon digging deep into his pocket, but coming up with only a few coins. “I thought I had more than this,” Jon mumbled. “I couldn’t have spent that much for that crazy game.”
Brent made his purchase and the clerk turned to Jon. “And which one did you want, son?” he asked.
“Just a minute,” Jon stuttered. “I have to get some more money from my Dad.”
“Dad, Dad!” he called. “I need some more money for my belt buckle.” But Dad motioned Jon to come to his side.
“Where is the money I gave you for the trip?” Dad asked. “You remember I gave you all the spending money you would have before we left home.”
“Yes, I know, but I didn’t know that game was going to cost so much, and now I only have this much left, and it’s not enough to buy my buckle like Brent’s. Can’t you just give me a little more money?”
“I’m sorry Jon, but that was not our agreement. I’m sorry if you spent all your money on the game and don’t have enough for a buckle. You can look around and see if there is something else you would like for the money you have left.”
Big tears started to form in Jon’s eyes as he looked into the glass case for the last time at the beautiful belt buckle. How he wished he had listened to Brent and Mom before he spent nearly all his money for that crazy game. But now all he could do was hope there would be a next time when he could buy a buckle like this one. One thing he knew for sure, on their next vacation, he would think longer and harder before spending his money. He would make better choices next time. And Mom and Dad reassured him that they knew that he would.
Source: Reprinted from Karen & Ron Flowers, Passing the Torch. Silver Spring, MD: Department of Family Ministries, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992.