Copper pennies are the smallest increment in our money. And now, monetarily, they’re actually worth almost nothing.
Many times in stores and businesses you will see a little jar that says, “need a penny, take a penny.” It means, if you need a penny or two in paying your bill, take it. Sometimes others will just drop a penny in there from their change to help the next person. Most don’t really think much about it, because a penny won’t buy much anymore.
A penny has taken on the meaning of not very much money. Penny stocks for instance, refer to stocks that sell for very little and usually are outside the major market exchanges. They are often considered to be highly speculative.
When I was growing up there was a thing called penny candy. That meant things like jaw breakers or Bazooka bubblegum. You put out a penny and you got one thing.
Some people even think it’s crazy to pick up a penny when you see it on the ground. It’s not worth the effort, they say. Then there’s the tradition of, if the penny isn’t face up, you shouldn’t pick it up. But I know somebody who picks it up and turns it over, polishes off the face side (heads) and then makes a wish. There’s also the thought that when you pick up a penny you’re supposed to look at the date. That date will almost always mean something very important in your life. Since then I’ve noticed this really does apply to me. You can always find something outstanding in your life that year. Plus, that thought process makes you think back over that year and all its events.
Then there’s the famous saying, a penny for your thoughts. It means, tell me what you’re thinking and I’ll offer you a little bit for it.
When I was in college, we all wore penny loafers called Bass Weejuns. A penny was inserted in the little spot across the vamp of the shoe. That was for good luck.
Finally we come to the saying, penny wise and pound foolish. It means to be thrifty with small amounts of money and avoid being wasteful with larger amounts. This, of course, began with the relationship between pennies or pence and the British pound. At one time the pound was worth about 240 pennies.
The most interesting thing I ever saw done with pennies was an entire basement recreation room floor. The pennies had been glued down, one by one, and then a heavy coat of some kind of shellac put on top to seal them so that when you walked on the pennies they were preserved. Obviously that took hundreds of dollars of pennies to complete and many hours of work by two people.
All this said, pennies mean something to some people and almost nothing to others. Have you ever heard that angels were involved with pennies? Recently a friend shared this with me:
“I found a penny today just laying on the ground, but it’s not just a penny this little coin I found.
“That’s what my grandma told me. She said angels toss them down. Oh how I love that story.
“She said when an angel misses you, they toss a penny down, sometimes just to cheer you up, to make a smile out of your frown.
“So don’t pass by that penny when you are feeling blue, maybe it’s a penny from heaven that your guardian angel tossed to you!”
Now maybe every time you pull those almost worthless pennies out of your pocket, you’ll think again about their value, or if you see one on the ground, you’ll pick it up.
(Melanie Behrens – firstname.lastname@example.org)
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