Sunday, August 31, 2008


My daily walk to work takes about fifteen minutes each way, slightly less if the weather motivates me to pick up the pace. Not long ago I began noticing an unusual number of pennies on the ground along the way.

I live in a small city, and even the downtown area where I work isn't especially heavily travelled. Still, I wouldn't think it odd to see an occasional coin on the ground.

However, I was finding five to ten pennies each way, in different locations, pretty much every day. I didn't pick any of them up. Part of my reason was standard arrogance ("That's not even worth bending down for"), but I had another motive that I thought was more important.

Whenever I see a coin on the ground, I think of the book of Leviticus:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. - Leviticus 23:22 (NIV)
The book of Ruth relies heavily on this principle for its plot.

I live in a blessed land of plenty. A handful of pennies aren't going to make any difference to anyone in my area code. Still, I think the principle holds: leave something of your bounty behind for someone else who may need it more than you would have.

In this case, it's not about money. Even if someone in my city was poor enough for those few cents to matter to them, it wouldn't be enough to do them any good.

However, finding a coin on the ground may do someone some good. It may brighten their day, and some people walking those streets may really need their day brightened. I've seen children get honestly excited by finding such a small treasure. Even some adults can have their whole outlook on life brightened, at least for a while, by the smallest "stroke of luck". It can make them feel (realize) that Somebody out there cares about them. If leaving a penny on the ground has any chance at all of doing that for someone, then I'm happy to do it.

So, my habit was established, and I felt pretty smug about it. Each day I noticed, but left, several cents lying scattered on the ground.

Then one morning there was a shiny dime lying on the sidewalk in front of me.

Well, that clearly changed matters. Pennies are one thing, but to leave a dime behind just wouldn't do. I picked it up, put it in my pocket, and kept walking.

I didn't even get to my office before realizing that I had just been tested, and failed.

My "principle", my "benevolence", apparently only held for completely insignificant things. Making matters worse, it's not like a dime, a mere ten cents, makes any difference to me either. I was just greedy.

Failure is once again proven the best teacher. I was convicted.

The next time I walked though the same area where I found the dime, I discreetly dropped a quarter onto the ground. I hope it made somebody's day a little better.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my mother-in-law's coat and scarf.

1 comment:

Janis said...

Zirbert, I laughed out loud when I read this. I have experienced the exact same thing... we are ridiculously greedy people aren't we? Can't pass up a free dime. I sometimes even dream about finding an abundance of free change on the ground... dimes and quarters and loonies, oh my! Of course, I have a lot of strange, obsessive dreams. And a lot of student loans. Not sure if they go together, but might explain why I can't pass up a free dime.