On a lonely street late one summer’s night,
A man caught up to me under a streetlight.
“Your money or your life!” he gruffly said,
Brandished a knife, nodded his head.
“You can have it,” in my voice a trepidation,
I handed him my wallet without hesitation.
But haltingly said, “Money is a man’s life,
Sort of. For example, take your knife —
Someone spent time the ground to explore,
Another spent time in a hole digging ore,
Hauled it raw from where it was mined,
Smelted iron, and with carbon combined,
The steel foundered into integrated blade,
Handles attached and polished for trade,
Then someone bought it and several more,
Hauled them on the road and put in a store
Where you admired it, made it your own,
Paid the owner, then he paid on his loan.
All these people gave a bit of their lives,
Just so you could have one of their knives.
Time is money, and also is life’s essence,
One for the other is one of life’s lessons.
So, that’s what money is, a dollar or a dime,
Your life you trade for a token of your time.”
The man paused, looked at his shiny knife,
Said, “I really didn’t know that money is life.
I’ll give back your wallet and the dollars too,
But for time spent listening, I’ll take a few.”
He removed a bill, I could see it was a ten,
Returned my wallet, still his knife glistened.
He hesitated. I could see his jaw line bulge,
Then he sighed aloud, a thought to indulge.
“Won’t need this again, whatever life brings,
You take the blade to keep with your things,
I’ve decided not to cut you with this knife,
“So treasure it well, it’s a token of your life.”
He walked, happy for the ethics lesson.
I waited, fingering my Smith & Wesson,
Thought, how ironic, his trading me the knife
For a lousy ten dollars, the token of his life.