The Value of a Pencil


It was a lonely night, and I remember sitting on the bed of blankets my mother put together because at the time, we couldn’t afford a bed. It was me and five other family members who occupied the space on the floor, and everyone was fast asleep… everyone but me. I stood up, and stared at the ray of light I could see seeping through the curtains from the street lamps outside. I focused solely on the light and allowed my mind to wander. In the midst of my imagining mystical fairy tales that would only exist at that moment for as long as insomnia possessed me, my grandpa had opened his plastic divider that separated our spaces. The light protruding from his room didn’t wake the others, instead it temporarily blinded me since it was much brighter then the light from the window that guided my daydreams.

“Que tu hace, mija?” which means, ‘what are you doing?’.

“Nothing, I can’t sleep” I whispered back. I didn’t want my mom to wake up, she’d be upset that I hadn’t fallen asleep, and she would be under the impression that I woke up my grandpa. He gestured for me to come to his room, to which I quickly jumped up as quietly as I possibly can to escape the boredom that entrapped me. I tiptoed, lightly stepping over my families’ feet and scurried into his room past him. He closed his divider and came to sit down beside me. He was watching something on his vintage black and white TV (you know, the ones you need to operate with a dial to navigate through the channels.) I asked him what he was watching, although his answer is one I can no longer recall. We stood there for a while, watching the silent TV. I remember there being a man in a suit dancing with a ballerina.

He rose up from the bed at a certain point, turned to me and said, “I have something to give you.” He went in between the TV and the board holding it and retrieved a barely sharpened, halfway-used pencil. He sat down next to me once again, although this time on the other side. He held the pencil in his hands, palms facing the ceiling as though he was presenting the finest diamond. Little to my knowledge at the time, this gift would be worth more then any diamond a woman can possess. Puzzled, I looked at the pencil, back to him, and then back to the pencil once more. I reached for the pencil, but before I could take a hold of it, he took my hand and placed the pencil onto my palms.

“You see this? What is this?”

“It’s a pencil?”

“Yes. This is my gift to you. It isn’t new, and it didn’t cost me a lot of money, but I’m giving it to you from the bottom of my heart. That makes this pencil valuable. When someone gives you something from the bottom of their heart whether it be big or small, you APPRECIATE it and hold it close to you because that person thought of you, and it’s the thought that counts. You will love this pencil like it’s a piece of jewelry, because I am giving it to you as a gift, mija.” I gazed down at this pencil that was barely sharpened and used halfway, instantly feeling as though I was holding the key to the city. I felt so happy, and we smiled at each other. It was at that moment, probably the last sentimental moment I had with my grandpa before he passed on, that I learned a lesson that couldn’t have left a bigger impact on me had it been taught to me by anyone else. I gave him a big hug, and he the same, and I thanked him. He gave me a kiss on my cheek and afterward, we continued watching the black and white images dance on the screen in silence. To him, he taught his grand daughter a lesson. To me, it was the day I received a pencil that would represent something grand for the rest of my life.

I held onto that pencil for quite a long time, I felt proud of writing with it, as little as my name on the top of a paper. I told everyone I knew, although no one could see the significance of the pencil that I seen. Nobody could understand what it was that made me feel so proud to hold it, to write with it… Nobody could understand The Value of a Pencil.


COPYRIGHT The Value of a Pencil by Virginia LaTourette