From the Editor: A Busload of Moments

Male hands count cash money in the office. Close up of man hands count dollar bills. Starting investment capital. Money calculation in credit company office.
Male hands count cash money in the office. Close up of man hands count dollar bills. Starting investment capital. Money calculation in credit company office.

I was ten years old when I first felt the satisfaction attached to the act of giving. It was a snow-covered Saturday in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. With a group of school mates and a couple of chaperones, we piled our parkas into a bus and headed toward the Mall of America.

During the ride, the adults doled out cash to each student: $15 for gifts, $5 for lunch. The lunch part was mine, but that $15 was earmarked for “others.” This was a new concept for me but I remember taking it to heart; there was a lot of pre-planning involved on my end. The “others” were people I’d never met, nor would I ever meet them. I had been told by grownups that they were people in need of gifts and “anything that you use every day.” Simple enough.

We were put into groups that I remember quickly fracturing off into smaller groups, and we hit the mall—a bunch of kids armed with $15. Within minutes of our arrival, budgets were blown. Students ran to stores like Limited Too and Abercrombie, and spent their entire allocation on a tank top. In their own size. During winter.

Not me. I headed to the third floor, where I knew I could stretch my dollar. My notes said “cheap store,” and I’d pre-budgeted half of my fifteen American dollars for this specific vendor. I was greeted with a half-hello—as if a $7.50 windfall hadn’t just Bing-Bonged its way past the door chime.

This store was incredible. And tiny. It was as close as you could get to a garage sale inside of the largest mall in the country. Tired, dusty items cluttered the shelves—items that had already lived a long life on a different shelf. The inventory was completely unfocused; you never knew what you might find. And I recall the same attention was put into the direction of said inventory. There were deals to be had but you had to put in the effort to find them. I followed my nose.

I walked out of that heavenly wholesaler with their most boring items: scented candles, socks, and lotion. And $7.50 to go.

I took my cash down a floor to a clothing store that sold t-shirts for $2, and I scooped up two of them. The rest of my budget went to the Dollar Tree, where I bought shampoo and a (probably fake) porcelain statuette.

It took me almost two hours to spend $15 on someone else, an amount I could have spent on myself in less than a minute. I didn’t want to waste someone else’s opportunity. I wanted it to feel like much more than $15.

I spent my lunch money at Burger King in the north food court. I sat there with my bagged-bounty, and I felt good. I felt something new to me. Someone, somewhere might feel a moment of joy when they’re holding the same bag. I really liked the idea of that.

We were corralled back to the bus and we compared our finds on the ride home. Everyone went in a different direction when it came to gift selection, but it really added up. A literal busload of stuff, some of it utterly useless, but a busload of moments nonetheless.




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