$6.17 and a Teddy Bear named Sam
Fort Worth, Texas
November 17, 2001
This summer he and his wife decided to tell their daughter about
the college fund they started for her when she was a baby. Well
decided. His wife thought it might be a little beyond a five year
old. He conceded that, but figured it would be a good way to begin
ingraining in her the importance of a college education and the
importance of saving money.
Jessie, his daughter, is rather precocious. A couple of days after
listening to her father tell her what they were doing and why, she
decided she needed to contribute. She was, after all, five and a
half. According to her father, she is militant about the and
a half. It somehow means shes a big girl now. To her
that meant she should contribute to her college fund.
She got some lemons, sugar, water, and Sprite from her mother and
made up a pitcher of, what she called, Lemonade Blasts. It was her
own secret recipe. The preparation appeared to consist of squeezing
a few lemons, adding a dash of water, a ton of sugar, and filling
the rest of the pitcher with Sprite. She took her pitcher and some
cups and marched down to the end of her driveway and sat on the
curb waiting for the money to come rolling in.
He came home from work that night and saw his daughter sitting
on the curb in the summer twilight. His wife told him shed
been out there for hours. Hadnt sold a thing. The next day
they went out and spent about twenty dollars on a cheap card table,
some tagboard, and some fluorescent magic markers. She worked Monday
through Friday every week selling her Lemonade Blasts for five cents
In three weeks she made $6.17, which works out to 123.4 Lemonade
Blasts. No one really knows how she ended up with the seventeen
cents. Every penny she made went into her Shrek piggy bank. Her
mother would occasionally exchange a pile of the smaller coins for
dollar bills or quarters.
Her father, the practical man, thought that maybe they should try
to teach her that she really hadnt made any money yet, that
shed spent more than she had made back through her sales.
His wife laughed at him and threatened to lock him in the trunk
if he did. When Jessie would sit down to dinner with her parents
and recount to her father each sale she had made that day
melted him a little. He thought maybe he could teach her the practical
lesson of profit later. Every night when he came home he would buy
two Lemonade Blasts for he and his wife. The drinks were so sweet
they would surreptitiously pour them down the sink. He figured his
daughter had created a hardcore sugar addiction in some of the neighborhood
Summer ended, Jessie went to school, and the burgeoning Lemonade
Blast business went into hibernation until next summer. Shortly
after that the planes pounded into the WTC, the Pentagon, the field
in Western PA.
Her father worked hard and sometimes took short business trips.
He liked to sit in front of the television with his laptop and briefcase
when he had to bring work home and watch TV while Jessie played.
After the Attacks the TV was always tuned into the news. He and
his wife had spoken with Jessies teachers and counselors at
her school to get advice on the best way to explain to someone so
young what had happened. They wanted her to understand the event
enough to understand that, yes, it was horrible, but that Osama
Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda network werent some omnipotent
Sometime shortly after the attack there was a story on one of the
television networks about the family of a fire fighter who had died
trying to help people at the WTC. He had a little girl about the
same age as Jessie. Her father was only half paying attention to
the story, having become, like many of us, a little numb to the
individual human dramas that littered our post-Attack world. Then
he noticed Jessie standing at the edge of his big, comfortable chair.
She was very worried.
He set aside his work and pulled her up on to his lap. She was
terribly concerned about that little girl whose father had died.
She was terribly concerned about her daddy going on a trip.
She changed after that. She was a generally happy little girl who
seemed to be doing fine. But if her father was late in getting home
she would grow increasingly anxious and beg her mother to call him
on his cell phone to find out where he was and how long it would
be before he got back. Every now and then she would wonder about
that little girl.
One night in October, he had a late business dinner in Dallas and
an early meeting there the next day. He planned to stay at the corporate
apartment his company keeps for such occasions. The drive was nearly
fifty miles each way and the commute in the morning would be brutal.
He called home. They had talked to Jessie before hand about his
being away for a night. She was concerned but seemed okay. She was
being very brave. Jessie got on the phone and spoke with her father.
She wanted to know what time he would be home the next day.
As a toddler, Jessie went everywhere with a big, floppy, teddy
bear named Sam. The mere thought of being separated from Sam was
devastating to her. When she started Kindergarten she wanted to
take Sam with her. Her father wouldnt let her. Over time,
she stopped carrying Sam with her but each night, you could peek
into her room and see her asleep, hugging Sam tightly to her.
Sam had become dingy and worn and threadbare over the years. He
was missing one eye.
That night, while he was talking with his daughter, he asked her
if she was going to be okay with him being gone and offered a gentle
assurance that he would be home the next afternoon. She said that
she would be fine, that when she got into bed she and Sam were going
to pray for her daddy to be safe.
Something about that scorched him. He drove home that night. He
slipped into her room and sat by her bed and watched her sleeping.
Days passed. Weeks. She grew less anxious about her fathers
arrival time back at the homestead. She no longer talked about that
little girl from the television report.
His firm had cut back severely on travel so he there had been no
long trips since the attacks. Then a trip to New York came up. He
preferred not to go, but the client was insistent and the client
was big. He would fly out the Sunday before Thanksgiving and come
back that Tuesday night, fighting through the pre-holiday traffic
and the excruciatingly slow security checks at the airport. They
talked to Jessie about it. She was concerned but nothing to cause
her parents excessive worry.
One night last week, on one of the cable news networks, there was
a report on the fundraising that had been done to date. It was,
he said, a generally triumphant report about the money that had
been raised and was now being distributed to surviving families.
They mentioned families of fire fighters. Something in that struck
a nerve with Jessie.
A few minutes later her father looked up to see Jessie standing
at the foot of his big comfortable chair with her cupped hands holding
something towards him and Sam wedged under her arm. In her hands
were four one-dollar bills, six quarters, four dimes, five nickels,
and two pennies.
She put the money on the table next to the chair and told her father
that when he went to New York he should give the money to the little
girl, the daughter of the firefighter. She said it would help her
to get an education. It broke his heart.
But he is a practical man.
He thought maybe he should try to explain to her again what had
happened. That there were so many little girls and little boys still
waiting for a mother or a father to come home. He thought he should
tell her that she was very good to be so generous but that $6.17
was not very much money and she should hold on to it and that the
little girl would understand.
Jesse held Sam out towards her father. She said he should give
Sam to the little girl. That maybe if that little girl had Sam she
wouldnt be so sad. She wouldnt miss her daddy so much.
He will be taking a later flight home from New York than he had
originally planned. His meetings end late morning but he wants to
go down to the World Trade Center site, or as close as he can get.
He thinks it is important to see that. To know. Hes going
to be carrying a briefcase, an overnight bag, and a check for $6.17
that he has rounded up to the nearest $5000. And he has to see if
he can find someone who will know what to do with the big, floppy,
dingy, worn one-eyed teddy bear named Sam that he will be carrying