It showed up in my change one day. A worn, deeply brown penny. I knew it was old because it had wheat sheaves on the reverse the way old pennies do.
I put on my reading glasses and tilted it to the light so I could read the date.
I couldn’t believe it. Minted ninety-three years ago, this little geriatric penny was still in circulation. And it got me wondering…
Who in this coin’s long life have held it in their hands? What were their stories?
Where could it have possibly traveled?
As a shiny penny in 1920 maybe it got saved up with eight other pennies to buy a loaf of bread for a family who just arrived from Europe.
I’ll bet that once or twice it was thrown by pining lovers, eyes closed, hearts hoping, into a wishing well.
An excited child used it to buy a red licorice whip.
In the Depression, it bought a red apple on the street.
It paid the rent for a struggling experimental painter in Manhattan.
A happy father gave it to his little son, saying with a twinkle, “Don’t spend it all in one place.”
And there was the soldier who carried it at D-Day because 1920 was his birth year – he rubbed it constantly with his thumb for luck as the landing craft neared the beach.
In Iowa, a boy put it in a jar with every other coin he could earn until he had enough to buy his first balsa airplane kit.
A girl in Brooklyn used it to buy a real book of her own.
It started a single mom’s college fund.
A Greek deli owner in Cincinnati put it in the till for the first gyro he ever sold.
It spent a few years in the collection of a bookish child, who learned about history by holding it in her hands.
Year after year, person after person, this little coin moved from place to place doing what it was designed to do – be a tool for people to realize their dreams.
And Abraham Lincoln’s profile became softer and shinier from all that handling, and the copper shine disappeared. The relative value of the coin has diminished.
No one could buy much with it today.
But the printed words on it are still strong, and bold. Words like: Liberty. Unum. America. Trust. God.
Yes, this little penny is still here. And now in it rests gently in my care.
I think we’re both extraordinarily lucky.