Hot chocolate goes well with cookies. Also $4.

What You Can Learn With Four Dollars

Hot chocolate goes well with cookies. Also $4.

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and walked out with an item that you hadn’t planned on getting?

I had that happen recently.

My wife and I are at the store to pick up a few items for supper. We have a list of specific items to get. While working our way through the aisles, I notice the store sells a type of cookies I loved when I was a kid. They’re not on the list, but they look good. I throw them into the shopping basket.

On the way home, my wife mentions they cost four dollars.

“What? Four dollars? For those?”

As many good memories I have of those cookies, I don’t value them that much. But we’re nearly home, and it isn’t worth going back to the store to return them. I guess I’ll have to eat them.


The next day we pass through the farmers market. An array of colorful fruits and vegetables lines the street. One stand sells ice cream. Made with fresh and high quality ingredients, often sourced from the other farmers at the market, their ice cream is some of the best I’ve ever tasted. We talk to the lady at the stand and enjoy a few samples. But we decide not to get any this time. A small cup costs four dollars.

At the grocery store later in the week, I fill my cart with fruits and vegetables. They look delicious and healthy. We’re going to have a good lunch today. Not only will we enjoy the meal, but we’ll have leftovers. The cashier rings up my purchase. “Four dollars,” she says.

Browsing the internet, I take a look at a friend’s campaign for Charity Water. She’s giving up his birthday to raise money. The site mentions that each dollar invested in clean water yields an eight dollar return on investment. A four dollar contribution to her campaign would transform someone’s quality of life.

Throughout the week I continue to find items I could also purchase with four dollars. Each instance reminds me that life is full of tradeoffs.

cookies may seem light
but should you eat too many
you’ll be heavier

When developing habits, you must pick which one to focus on. You can’t change everything at once.

Showing generosity, you decide to donate time or money to one cause or another. You can’t give to them all.

Sitting down to relax, you may give attention to a book or watch a movie. You can’t do both at the same time.

In serving others, you balance between addressing the immediate need – the symptom – or changing the system – the root of the problem.

Often, you have to choose between multiple good options. In those situations, rarely is there a perfect choice – a way to balance the tradeoffs evenly and still do or get everything you want. Your resources are limited. Each path bears the possibility of future regrets or the criticism of others who may disagree with your selection. But what matters most is that you make the choice.

piece by tiny piece
the cookie falls to the floor
soon to be but crumbs

If you’re passive, your choice will be made for you. Habits, circumstances, environment, and the people around you will decide on your behalf. And you may not like their choice. It may not match your values, who you are, or where you want to go.

So take initiative.

water drops and small
measures of ingredients
mix into cookies

Decision upon decision, tradeoff upon tradeoff, you choose your path. Each one builds upon the next. With purpose and awareness you create change in your life. You move closer to the place you want to go and the person you want to become.


As for the cookies: they were good, but I probably won’t buy them next time. There are other ways I’d rather use my four dollars.

But the reminder to be intentional made them well worth the cost.


2 thoughts on “What You Can Learn With Four Dollars”

  1. I love this message, the way that you reflect how much that four dollars not only “matters” but multiplies when shared with intention and purpose. Beautiful and timely reminder…thank you!

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