My reserve fund

Who would have guessed that the humblest gift would become the most valuable?

When I was a child, there was a religious tradition that when children reached a certain age—around seven or eight—they would have a ceremony that was considered an important occasion. Relatives and close friends would be invited to a small party, and all would give a gift in gold: a piece of jewelry such as a ring, a pin, earrings.

In the poor European country where I lived before I moved to Brazil, these gifts had a very practical purpose. They were meant to be like a reserve fund for a child. If he or she were ever to need money for survival or for an emergency, some piece of jewelry could be sold.

When my turn came, I also got my share: a bracelet, a pin with my name engraved on it, and some other smaller things. However, a dear uncle of mine could not afford any gold, not even a tiny medal. He gave me a book. Its title was The Bible for Children. It featured almost the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments, reworded in a simpler language. It was a thick book, with small print and very few sepia illustrations. It didn't seem attractive at all for a second-grader. However, I read it through in a few weeks, which was certainly a feat for a child of that age. I could hardly put it down until I had finished. Why did that book have such appeal to me?

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What is real?
December 16, 1991

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