When the uber-talented Charity Meinhart designed my new website in February, I was excited about the fresh new look but nervous about the penny counter. I’ve never kept a running total of my penny finds. When I started finding them six years ago I kept a log but after a few months of that I couldn’t keep up.
A yearly total was simpler but even that had its issues. I kept misplacing the sheet I’d written my totals on and had to scroll through my blog posts to find it. Charity had an easy solution but for it to have any impact I’d have to keep up. I couldn’t just throw the day’s finds in the penny bowl and count them once a year. I’d have to “change” my process. For a woman that encourages the idea of embracing change this threw me for a loop.
I knew I didn’t have a good excuse for avoiding it so I had to figure out a simple way to keep the weeks pennies separate from the year’s pennies. This is laughable because it only involves a bowl, a jar, and slip of paper. However, what I realized in the effort was that my concern was the count itself. I didn’t want to get caught up in it.
I learned early on in the penny experience if I go out looking for one I will NOT find one. In fact looking, is a sure-fire way to go without. I don’t find pennies I discover them but it sounds silly to say you’re a penny discoverer. “The Christopher Columbus of Pennies,” doesn’t work as a title either.
Knowing my tendency to get ahead of God I didn’t want to fall into the trap of watching the count and setting any goals. That would interfere with the experience. The only mindset that’s ever felt solid has been hoping for a big year for the spiritual insight they bring. Because the pennies have taught me to be aware of what I’m thinking, why I’m thinking it, and prompt me to look for what God might be saying—the monetary aspect is insignificant. I don’t spend the money. It’s not mine to keep. I give it away every year.
With all that in mind, the first couple months of updating the counter went fine. I kept a safe distance from it emotionally. In April, however, that changed pardon the pun. When the ticker hit 18,000 plus I’d swear the jar rattled and I wanted to hit 20,000. It felt like I was sitting in front of a slot machine in Vegas. “Cha-cha-ching,” it screamed you’re only ten dollars away from two hundred. It was intoxicating. My initial fear was now realized. I was hooked.
Forgotten was the thrill of a mere penny a day. Suddenly putting God to the test felt safe. I wanted more than ever to see what He was going to do. Would he come through? The penny count kept climbing but not at an outrageous pace until I found eight dollars. Since finding paper money is rare, the idea was reinforced but then things slowed down. It felt like a turtle might run into more pennies than me.
By June 25th with only 21 days until my penny anniversary I gave up. I’d need 91 cents and at the rate things were going it didn’t look good. I felt defeated. The very thing I knew God didn’t want for me. My faith had been reduced to the size of the count and I was upset with myself for breaking the rule I’d previously made.
I had an appointment that afternoon for physical therapy and when I was leaving my therapist asked me if I’d found a penny yet. I smiled faintly and told her, “No. Maybe today is the day they stop.”
I couldn’t believe I’d said this. I’ve thought it, but can’t remember admitting to it publicly.
She smiled and said, “I doubt that,” but I left teary-eyed anyway. I was being so hard on myself. Sometimes I think my knee is a problem because I kick myself too much.
Walking out the door the wind stirred and I noticed what looked like a square leaf blow in front of me. When it got closer and fell to the ground I realized it was a folded dollar bill. I stopped dead in my tracks. I stood there staring at it until the wind moved it again. I grabbed it and ran back into my therapists office and shouted,
“Look, 100 pennies!”
Grinning she asked me, “Do you feel better?”
“Embarrassed,” I said—which is also how I felt later in the day when I found two more pennies. God showed me exactly how silly I was being.
This week when I did the final year’s count something clicked and the message was clear. The penny counter, the bowl of the week’s finds, and the jar of the year’s are all about different things. The counter reminds me to think big and the bowl to think small. My focus isn’t the problem it’s getting stuck on one or the other.
Sometimes the picture needs to be big and other times it needs to be small because life requires changing your vantage point routinely. A scenic landscape is not always the better view when a close-up of one detail might serve you best. The only goal associated with either perspective should be treating both as a treasure. If you don’t treat the little insights you’re given as priceless, you won’t consider the big ones of much worth either.
The good news is that despite my hang-ups this year God proved however great or small my faith, He would work. It was my biggest year ever. Because of that I was able to give my friend Ellie fifty-one dollars to add to her medical fund.
A drop in the bucket compared to her need but considering the majority of those dollars came one penny at a time I think that’s amazing. As cliché as it sounds, it reinforces the idea that none of us can spare the change. Every little bit counts. God can use it all and so can we.
Dare I hope for 6,000 pennies this year? Only time will tell. Until then I’m quite happy with the four pennies I have that don’t require counting.