PENNY for your thoughts.
I don't have a red cent
showing up like a bad penny
waiting for the penny to drop
penny wise pound foolish
penny saved is a penny earned
If you repeat these sayings to your kids one day, they will ask you… what is a penny?
What IS a penny?
We disregard it, it IS after all, small change as the saying goes. Good riddance, it was more trouble than it was worth.
Sit down one day. Add up all the things in your life that you take for granted. And ask yourself which of them might be some day obsolete. You might be chocking up a list already the rotary telephone, the land line, fax machines, VCR, DVD players, analogue TV's, turntables, Sony Walkman, 35mm film, encyclopedias, floppy disks, phone books, the typewriter, newspapers, external hard drives, mailboxes, DVD movies, the pay phone, CASH, a writing pad, wrist watches. The list can be endless depending on how old you are.
Ok, you will never miss those things, they are just THINGS, aren't they? They are a piece of your history some day they will be gone, just as people never envisioned the chariot or the toga ever disappearing from the scene. Change is invariable constant. You can't avoid it. Some things must necessarily pass away.
This is a lament for the penny. Now a lament, is a literary form that is sometimes misunderstood. It's not about bitching and whining, or the insistence that everything new is bad and everything old is good. A lament marks the passing of something from the landscape of the human heart. While an object may be passing from the world in a physical sense, a lament is an expression of love, it seeks to preserve a memory that was good, or a quality of the heart that is associated with that object.
You all have associations with THINGS that are innocuous to anyone else. Think of what comes up in the human heart when you hear a certain song, or you smell a certain perfume, or the aroma of cooking. There are lots of elemental things that go on with people that have to do with the use of small insignificant objects whose passing no one would notice. For me, the penny is one of those things. It's not just a penny to me.
Let me tell you what I see when I conjure up this penny, and maybe you will see why I must register a lament for its passing.
When I look at this penny, first of all I see the Queen. Now she's in her 80's an not likely to be with us much longer, but I spent EVERY day at school early on, singing GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, not Oh Canada. If this penny had Pierre Trudeau or Stephen Harpur on it, it just wouldn't be the same. ROYALTY reminds me of comportment, that there are certain lofty ideals like loyalty and service to something corporate, bigger than myself that I must remember.
And then there IS the MONETARY value. One cent. It doesn't even count any more. AND YET, the apparent value of something is sometimes misinterpreted just like the saying, people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
For me, to look at a penny, is to be TEN YEARS OLD all over again. It's a hot summer's day in late August with nothing to do and school is going to be starting again soon. Me and my best friend have hopped on our bikes with a fishing pole, a can of beans and some matches, a jackknife and a baloney sandwich in our backpack. We don't know exactly where we are going to go, who we are going to see, only that we are going to be home slightly after our curfew when the streetlights come on, tired in a good way and dirty all over in a way that has mined all the possibilities out of what comes our way. I'm in my bare feet. I haven't seen my shoes since June, and it is almost September so I know that even if I step on a piece of glass, it won't bother me because of the thick callouses on the bottom of my feet. My mother is going to go crazy and make me take a scrub brush to myself before I am EVER allowed to climb into bed tonight. I'm going to walk the railway tracks, the iron burning hot on my feet. If I find a penny, maybe I can put my ear to the rail and see if there is a train coming, and I can put the penny on the track and when the train passes by there will be one big flat piece of copper left behind. Or maybe me and my friend will find pop bottles on the side of the track that busy and carless teen-agers have tossed along the way. A pop bottle is worth two cents. that means that if I find ten of them, the guy at the corner store is going to carefully count out twenty red pennies into my palm and I will be momentarily rich from good fortune.
Twenty cents? What can that buy? What's the point of twenty cents?
You know dollar stores? They used to be called the five and dime. Twenty cents for a kid in about 1970 would buy a LOT. You could get you some of those little rockets that you could shoot with an elastic band, some of the parachute army men, maybe a water pistol or an elastic gun, a kaleidoscope, a rubber ball. Or, CANDY. We all forgot about candy because at some point you now buy it at the grocery store from bulk bins, and it is pricey. Used to be that penny candy was a staple of the economy of those mom and pop corner stores, and kids would be the main customer. At three for a penny, twenty cents would send you away with a considerable brown bag of candy. Liquorice babies, blackballs, Bazooka Joe bubble gum complete with the joke or the stuff you send for if you saved up your wrappers. Everybody knew that if you got enough wrappers, you could send away for a submarine, it's true my friend heard about a kid who did it. I can't remember how many wrappers except that he must have saved up for a whole year. You can get Batman playing cards with some gum in it even thought the gum is really old and hard. You can trade those with your friends. I have all of them except for the Joker which is really hard to get. I keep on getting Batman and Robin over and over again, and I keep trying to trade those off. Got it, got it, got it, got it, need it, need it, need it, got it…. And then there are the foam strawberries or bananas. A bag of candy is sitting for an afternoon in luxury up in a tree fort somewhere, in the joy of gluttony and watching the rest of the world go by. Maybe it's buying an ice cold orange crush from the fridge for five of those pennies and sitting luxuriously with your friends on the shore, after a dip in the river takes the edge off the heat. Five cents could also buy a superman comic book that always had that Charles Atlas ad we all were going to send away for so we could get muscles too, and beat up the bullies. This penny, is the ultimate buying power of pure fun with nothing attached to it. It's not money that is destined for any savings account or designated to pay any bill.
I have this penny and I'm going to carry it in my pocket. What is impossible to see, is that there is a big piece of me in this penny, that is worth more than I can add up. It's the chance for me to be ten years all over again, with that first blush of independence, some money in my pocket, and endless possibilities for what the day might bring up. See this penny, pick it up, all the day you'll have good luck. The value of this tiny one cent piece is a world of reverie and endless possibilities. It's the part of me that will forever be ten years old.
Are you feeling the love? Some things in life, some memories especially, are worth more than money. And that, my fellow toastmasters, is my two cents worth