Seize That Penny!
by Stephen Doherty
“The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise.
It’s not that we seize them, but that they seize us.” –Ashley Montagu
For as long as I can remember, whenever my daughter would see a penny on the ground she would excitedly run-up to it, grab it, and hold it over her head shrieking, “Lucky penny, Daddy! Lucky penny!” I’m not sure what I loved most about the moment. Her excitement at her good fortune, the creation of a new family tradition, or the possibility that there actually was magic in that little copper coin.
All I know is that even today if I see a penny on the ground, I will honor the tradition and bend down to snatch it and put it safely in my pocket. This has caused a few embarrassing moments for me though. I work in Downtown Denver and often I will spot that penny within a few feet of a homeless person. Usually dressed in business attire, I will lean down to grab the penny only to be serenaded with a “HEY! WTF, Man?!” I usually diffuse the situation by handing over a dollar to make certain the cosmos remain in balance and I don’t diminish the penny’s luck with an untimely Karma attack!
As my daughter got older, the penny tradition remained in place but also became our metaphor for life. I have long believed that when our days are over, they will be defined most by the special occasions we didn’t let slip by. In our final moments, the highlights will be a pittance compared to the entirety of our lives. We will remember the usual suspects like births, weddings, deaths, family occasions, special holidays, and that list of just crazy stuff (good and bad) that we can never plan for but will never forget. Sometimes we need a reminder to make the day count, versus just making it through. In that context, it’s not even the day that matters-but the moments. Truly, our lives are defined by the sum total of these memorable times.
To that end, how many of us walk past life’s “shiny pennies” because we think they aren’t worth our time? How many of us discount “special” moments we could build on and deliver today because we think there will always be time to get to it tomorrow? I find myself purposely stopping in mid-stride lately–just trying to shed the enormity of the day and all of the filters we have acquired to help us decipher and deal with it.
As children, our lives are driven by our senses and every moment was a torrent of cascading wonders over our five senses accompanied by breathtaking exhilaration and exuberant joy! As adults, those senses can become numbed, dulled by the sheer weight of what life has accumulated in our heads.
Corinthians 13 exhorts us, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I have come to believe that some childish things should never be relinquished as their loss greatly diminishes our adult lives. Isn’t it true that special moments are made more special by the amplifying effect of our five senses?
Isn’t it also true that only as a child were we able to fully access and enjoy those five senses? I’m thinking God had the better take on this when he counseled us, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” My daughter learned young that the pathway to heaven is to never stop looking for and retrieving the shiny pennies we encounter on our journey, for truly the pockets bursting with copper coins are the surest sign of a life well-lived.
Children naturally live in the moment and they allow that
moment to be what it is; ”magical and beautiful in every way.”