Wednesday, 23 January 2019

F Fic, Non-fic

Seeing Pennies

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There’s a line in the movie Grease,right before the Thunder Road drag race. Marty sees a penny, and as she leans over to pick it up, she repeats the little ditty, “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.” Of course, her picking up the penny causes Kenickie to get hit by the car door and knocked out so that Zuko has to drive the car in the drag race. Obviously, Marty finding the penny and picking it up didn’t bring Kenickiegood luck. Which is, of course, the joke.

But I can’t help myself. I say it every time a little brown orb catches my eye. “Find a penny, pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.” Sad to say, however, that I’ve never been able to trace any particular amount of luck or betterment of life back to the days when I found a penny and picked it up.

My husband always shakes his head at me when I stop to pick up a penny as we cross a parking lot. He tells me that one day he’s going to buy a roll of pennies and randomly toss them wherever he knows we’ll be just so I have the sheer joy of finding them.

I know, I’m easy to please.

I don’t know why I see pennies so easily. Doesn’t matter if the pavement is baking in summer sun, strewn with garbage, or filled with cracks hosting hardy blades of grass. Somehow I can see that little penny. Maybe the sun catches it. Maybe it’s that perfect circle. Whatever it is that draws my eye, I see it, I retrieve it, and I put it in my pocket.

Find a penny pick it up. All day long you’ll have good luck.

Sometimes I find a nickel, a dime, or even—gasp!—a quarter. One time many years ago, I found bills rolled into a tight cylinder-like shape, about the size of a cigarette, lying on the sidewalk down the street from our apartment. The odd green color and markings gave it away. If I remember, it was something like two ten-dollar bills—a fortune for us at the time.

But pennies. I love pennies.

In her Pulitzer Prize–winning book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard describes the world as “fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand.” Of course, Dillard is writing about seeing the simple beauty of nature, comparing it with finding pennies. She goes on to say that if people can’t see pennies, even real ones, “so that finding a penny will literally make your day,” then that person is facing a lifetime of poverty, for real life is found in enjoying the beauty all around us.

Although I resonate with the fact that finding a penny does indeed give me joy, it may not necessarily “make my day.”

Maybe it should.

But really, what is a penny? It’s of so little value—drop a penny in the parking lot as you wrestle groceries into your trunk and chances are you’ll let it lie (or roll). Yet, if I were to try to get the cashier at the gas mart to round the $1.76 price of the bottle of sweet tea down to $1.75 because that’s all I have, I find the value of a penny real fast. I have to take one from the “give a penny take a penny cup,” and I have to remember to drop one in the next time. I have to pay that full $1.76 and, for that, I need a penny.

Those little copper circles give me great joy in the finding and in the making of exact change for said bottle of sweet tea. “Here’s a dollar, three quarters, and a penny.”

I agree with Annie that the world is strewn with pennies—literal ones and figurative ones. All it takes is eyes to see. Today the sun is shining for the first time after almost three weeks of constant rainfall. My cats stretch out purring beside me on the couch. My little house is cool and cozy. Stew gurgles in the crock pot. My two-year-old granddaughter just jabbered precious nonsense to me over the phone.

Pennies. Pennies of infinite value.

Where are pennies strewn in your life? Look past your overflowing desk and schedule and see the faces of your co-workers who have become your friends. Look past the messy kitchen and the cat hair on the carpet and see the faces of your precious family. Look past the checkbook that is too often in the red and see the promises from God who knows and cares and promises to meet your needs. Look past the worries that stifle you and see the sunshine of a new day.

Look. See.

Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear” (Matthew 13:16, NLT).

I will never stop looking for pennies. Yet, even as I look, I must see. My world is indeed “planted with pennies.” If it’s true that “what I see is what I get,” as Annie Dillard says, then I am rich indeed.

And so are you.


Linda K. Taylor has been working in publishing and doing editing for the last three decades. She’s been an editorial director and a freelance writer who has authored and contributed to numerous books. Linda currently is an instructor in the professional writing department at Taylor University. This summer she began working on her MFA in creative nonfiction. She blogs about teaching, writing, and editing (and even a little bit of grammar!) at www.lindaktaylor.wordpress.com.

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