My wife says that I’m strange and I guess she’s right. One of my idiosyncrasies is, that most of the time, I like going to funerals. The stories of people’s lives have always intrigued me. If you’re listening, many times at funerals, you learn more about life than you do about death.
One such funeral that I still remember occurred twenty years ago and reminded me of something that I had almost forgotten — the value of a penny. When I was a kid, a penny would buy a gumball from a machine or nine of them would buy a ticket to the Saturday matinee. In those days I was excited to find any lost coin, even a penny.
These days a penny won’t buy much of anything. They’re only good for the sales tax or to be left in a bowl by the cash register so that the next customer can avoid being given pennies in change. “A penny for your thoughts” is hardly worth talking about.
Pennies have become weighty nuisances that accumulate in our pockets and purses. Sometimes when nobody’s behind me in the check-out line, I look for an opportunity to foist them off on some impatient cashier. From the number of pennies I find on the sidewalk, it would seem that nobody cares much about pennies anymore. Abe Lincoln gets no respect!
That funeral that I remember two decades ago was for Wood Broyles, a much-loved member of our church who died at age ninety-four, just one day shy of his 62nd wedding anniversary. Whenever you went to visit Wood and his wife Alvis, you always came away with more blessing than you brought. Everyone agreed that the word that best described him was “encourager.”
During his funeral, Wood’s granddaughter tearfully told how she used to walk with her grandad to the grocery store when he lived in Breckenridge. On their return trip, she would always find a shiny penny on the sidewalk. As she excitedly picked it up, Wood would say, “That means good luck. I’ll bet something good’s gonna’ happen to you today!”
Once when she had the lead role in a class play, her grandparents came to see her performance. When she got off the school bus that afternoon and started up the driveway, there was a trail of pennies leading to the front door. “They truly were,” she recalled, “pennies from heaven.”
Wood knew that the worth of a penny — or anything else — was not necessarily determined by its monetary value. What something is worth depends on how we use it. If it’s invested in bringing someone else love, affirmation, and hope, even a penny may be worth a trillion times its face value. Whatever our net worth, we all have the power to bless.
“Lord, may the memory of Wood and our pennies remind us to use whatever we have, great or small, for the blessing of others. Amen.”
John Paul Carter is a resident of East Parker County and a regular contributor to the Weatherford Democrat.