Most people probably don’t think much about pennies on any given day. A single penny is practically useless, and if you’re like me you probably hate carrying any cash at all, let alone some loose change that’ll probably fall out of your pocket at the worst possible time. Canada stopped minting their pennies 5 years ago, and I don’t see ours lasting much longer.
But as long as they’re still around, whenever I see a glimmer of Lincoln’s profile, or a column from whatever the building is on the other side, I will stop and pick it up. Other coins too, I don’t hate. But a penny is worth a little more to me.
It has nothing to do with the “find a penny, pick it up…” or “penny saved, penny earned” bullshit.
I do it thanks to my Dad. He died 3 years ago, and I like to think that pennies in particular are his way of saying hi to me.
Growing up I never saw my Dad pass up any coin on the ground. Everywhere we went he’d always find at least a couple. It was a game to him. He was playing a his own PokemonGo/Super Mario Bros hybrid, but with real coins.
Whenever he found one he’d pick it up, quickly examine both sides, then with a satisfied look he’d quietly put it in his pocket. Every few months or so he’d bring out his loose coin box, and dump the metal bounty out on the table covered in newspaper. He’d separate them by denomination, then stack them in tens ready to be filled into the coinroll papers he got from the bank. Once my hands were big enough to count and stack, I was right next to him helping. Eventually I’d start my own coin box for my loose change and do the same ritual. Yes, I know about Coinstar machines and the like. I prefer my Dad’s method.
Dad also didn’t care what it looked like as long as it was a usable coin. He was particularly proud of one penny he dug up out of the asphalt with his pocket knife. It was barely recognizable, all chingered and gnarled, half covered in tar. Its usability was highly suspect. He didn’t put that one in the coin rolls. He left it in the box as a memento. A trophy from coin hunts past.
I’ll never know if he realized the values he was teaching me at the time. Respect for money, not fear or rejection of it. Staying humble; not letting pride get in the way of stopping to pick up something of so little value. I think it was just him being him. He knew the value of his hard, physical work, why pass up free money on the ground. He showed me if we can see value in the smallest denomination, we can see value in anything. He worked hard all his life, perfect attendance at work, zero sick days, and died 3 years after he retired. Now I see value in time more than anything.
Today was his birthday and I thought of him all day. It’s also my Stepmom’s birthday. She was the great love of his life, and I never saw him happier than when he was with her. I called her today to wish her a happy birthday and to share a little story from today.
This afternoon as I was running an errand, walking back to my car I saw that familiar copper glow rising from the asphalt. As I stood over it, Abe’s profile was upside down and facing another coin about a foot away. Another penny looking back at Abe. I picked them up and put them in my hands. A twofer. Two pennies for two special people.
Hi, Dad. Happy Birthday.