Lesson to My 6-year-old: Exchanging Money For Value

by admin on July 6, 2009

On a recent visit to San Francisco, I was temporarily at a loss to explain two things to my daughter:

  1. Why are so many people on the street asking you for money, Mom?
  2. Why aren’t you giving them any?

Between the crowded streets and our hurry to get somewhere on time, I successfully put off answering her questions “until we’re back at the hotel.” And when she fell asleep soon after our return there, I was thankful for the extra time to figure out how to answer her questions in a way she would understand.  I certainly couldn’t say “Well, as Dan Sullivan and Joe Polish taught me,  ‘Money is a byproduct of value creation’.”

Cable Car in San Francisco

The next day, as we waited in line to buy mass transit day passes, I had my answer.

He called himself “Information Man” and I shamelessly eavesdropped on him.

Information Man was coaching a nearby couple how to avoid the hour-long line for the Powell Street Cable Car to Fisherman’s Wharf, and instead take the F Line Streetcar along the Embarcadero and then walk a block to get to their desired destination.

After the couple thanked him and began to walk away, he smoothly asked, “Would you like to tip me?” And they did.

Making sure my daughter was watching, I pulled out a couple bucks and called him by name.  “Information Man,” I said. “I hear you’ve got the scoop on how to avoid that long line over there.” 

He repeated his detail-laden advice, and even quizzed my daughter on the color and type of streetcar we should seek to ensure arriving at our desired destination.  “Thanks very much,” I said as I tipped him. He graciously wished us well as we headed for the F Line, calling out a warning about not crossing over Market Street “or else you’ll lose that handsome man of yours to those pretty boys.”

“Why did you give him money, Mom?” my daughter asked.

“Because he provided value,” I replied.  “If a person finds a way to help me – especially when I don’t even realize that I need their help – I’ll gladly pay them for it.  We saved a lot of time, he’s a few dollars richer, and everyone is happy. Do you understand how this was different from the strangers asking us to just give them money?”

“Sure, Mom,” she said, nodding & pointing out the approaching F Line Streetcar.  However, I have a feeling we’ll revisit this lesson when she’s a teenager angling for some extra cash on a Friday night.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

GinaDeLong June 9, 2010 at 12:11 PM

Great post Michelle. Write more about the parenting experiences you create :-) I learn so much from you. Thanks!

Michelle June 10, 2010 at 1:02 PM

Thanks, Gina! Glad you enjoyed that story. Parenthood is an adventure, isn’t it?

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