“The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited by a mere penny?” (Annie Dillard)
My husband hatched a plan at dinner one night many moons ago. He had been reading Annie Dillard’s book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, and was captivated by an anecdote about a game she played during childhood. She tells how she hid her own “precious penn(ies)” in nooks or crannies in trees or sidewalks, drawing chalk arrows to them so a stranger would find the surprise penny and pick it up. Many times, she would lie in wait to catch a glimpse of the excitement in the finder’s eyes.
Dillard reminds us that, just like her game, there are “unwrapped gifts and free surprises” straight from the heart of God, just waiting for us if we open our eyes to see them. Our family mission was born: find these pennies every day and tell us about them at dinner.
What started as a conversation starter for the table ended up literally changing our lives. Each one of us searched and found many things each day that we believed were “strewn by the generous hand” of God Himself, “surprises” just for us He had hidden along the path, many times with “big arrows” signaling where we might discover them. We had things like flowers, actual pennies, frogs, the best parking space at the mall on a rainy day, butterflies, a kind word from someone, a goal scored on the soccer or field hockey field, etc. Sometimes, we would joke that what we had been given was a “nickel,” a “dime” or even a “quarter,” depending on the magnitude of what it meant to us.
My life (and mostly my head) is filled with negativity from the news, struggles in my home, animosity on social media, work-place uncertainty, sickness and even the death of those I love, all things that consume me by what’s wrong with the world instead of what’s right. Truth be told, doubts creep in about this God and I question if His love and care for me and this beautiful, but hurting planet.
Sticking my head in the sand and pretending the “bad” does not exist is NOT a good idea, but being swallowed up by it is worse. I am wise to navigate the tension between the bitter and the sweet of life, allowing them to sit side-by-side, both having their rightful place in my day, compassion rising within me in the bitter and joy enveloping my heart in the sweet.
I would still venture to say, however, that I don’t have to look very far to see the bitter. I am bombarded from sun up until sun down. I must open my eyes to search for the sweet, find it, and name it. Those “pennies” are just what I need. They quiet those doubts and remind me of a God who is fully alive and loves little old me, a God who has put special pennies all throughout my day, surprise “pennies hidden” just for me.
“As you go through this day, look for tiny treasures from God that have been strategically placed along the way. God lovingly goes before you and plants little pleasures to brighten your day. Look carefully for them and pluck them one by one. When you reach the end of your day, you will have gathered a really nice bouquet.” (Sarah Young)
From my heart to yours.
P.S. My penny already this morning was the sun streaking through my window, casting its rays across the floor. How about you? Any pennies?