I used to run everyday and then I had hernia surgery so I walked during my recovery time and I enjoyed it more than running. Then five years ago, I began swimming everyday and I stopped walking. But this past Sunday, my fitness club membership lapsed for a month due to my upcoming trip to Vietnam. Concurrently, the pool in my apartment complex closed for several days to get the chemical balance in the water stabilized. So, yesterday, for only the second time in a year, I walked through my neighborhood for forty-five minutes....and I found five pennies in the street! That snippet will make sense when you read the entry below from May 9, 2006.
We are in our change collection time of year at Westbury Christian School. For over a decade now, students at WCS and Friendship Christian School (Lebanon, Tennessee) have saved pennies-nickels-dimes-quarters to help build, and now expand, Jovenes en Camino, a boys' orphanage in El Zamarano, Honduras. I guess I'm in charge at our school. When I put up my billfold at night, I throw my change into a basket, minus a few quarters for laundry. It adds up if you are consistent. That's not the sole source of change for me. I walk every afternoon, always looking for coins in the street, finding them almost every day. These coins I find are kept in a separate container all year. At turn-in time, I take my curb money to school in a clear jar and let my students guess the amount with the closest estimate prevailing. There is a winner in each of my Bible classes who select from among three prizes:
A. a Honduras cross necklace
B. a Honduras bracelet
C. exemption plus a 100% on a quiz
No one hit it right on the money this year. The sophomore class winners were Meg, Lexus, and Ashley. In the eighth grade, Kamri, Jarrick, and Cameron won the hardware. The correct amount was.......$15.85. That doesn't seem like a big deal but it is. If every student and employee at WCS did the same, the total would be $9,510.00. Without one cent taken out of any purse, wallet, or piggy bank, we would have almost $10,000 to do what the Lord commanded in James 1:27. In talking to kids, you find the prevailing view that change is not important enough to pick up off the ground unless it is at least a quarter. We are pretty jaded to the value of money in American culture. There are intermittent reports that the government may phase out pennies from circulation. I hope that never happens. It would kill us!
It is fascinating to go through and count my off-the-pavement money each May. I am struck by the filth and corrosion coating some of the metal. Laying in the streets for months at a time is not good for the complexion of a penny! Some of the coins are scarred and bent from being run over repeatedly. Some dimes are indistinguishable from pennies due to discoloration. But the neat thing is, you can pull them out of the ditch and make them useful. You can find value in what has been discarded by the world. A dime, at first glance mistaken for a one cent coin, is found to have 1000% of its believed value simply by closer examination. That's what Jesus does for his followers. He picks us up when we feel abandoned. He sees the inherent worth in a soul cast off by the side of the road. He can take you and me, perhaps no more valuable in the world's eye than a small coin, and use us to change that same world. We might be beaten up, damaged, and dirty, but collected and cleaned up a bit, we can be a force to be reckoned with. It starts with one small penny at a time.
PS: My favorite penny story: Two years ago in January, I was on a mission trip in Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries. Working at a Christian orphanage in Port-au-Prince, guess what I found in the dirt driveway? Two American pennies! It had to be a sign!
Applicable quote of the day:
"If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted with pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It's that simple. What you see is what you get."
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