The adventures of a five euro note

I remember from my school days an essay with the heading called “The adventure of a shilling”.  A shilling was a day’s wages then.  The adventure of a fiver – to take its modern equivalent would make a great story or perhaps a TV play now, or perhaps for that matter a whole series.  It would be fascinating to follow its journey from person to person, pocket to pocket or hand to hand.  From the crisp new note fresh off the printing press to the battered old fiver confined to the bank vault.  In a world so obsessed by hygiene, nobody ever dreams of washing their hands after handling it and certainly nobody is ever deterred from taking it even from the most suspect sources. How many would refuse it even if they were absolutely sure that it came from a person suffering from a contagious disease.  Strange isn’t it, how we never think of its past, yet every crease in it, every stain on it has its own story.  It must have brought a lot of happiness to many people and no doubt too, it must have left a long trail of misfortune behind it. It might have bought some medicine to cure a sick person or some food for the hungry person or a bag of coal to bring warmth into a home.  On the other hand it is not called the “the root of all evil” for nothing.  The drink it paid for that started the alcoholic or drugs for the addict.  Despite its innocent appearance it has figured in a lot of sordid deals, bribes and backhands, or phrased more acceptably, for services rendered and favours done.  But it has one great virtue it does not carry forward its past.  It is a crisp new fiver in every new hand.  In these days of devaluation and inflation and shrinking purchase power it is worth reminding ourselves when we look at the fiver in our hands, that the only devaluation that matters is the use we make of it.  If we insist on spending it as so often we do, carelessly, we should not be so surprised at how little it can buy.  It can still buy an awful lot for somebody in real need.  In a world where millions die of starvation and disease we can still get a lot of real value for money.  A fiver well spent can never be devalued.                                                               Fr John