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Pennies Thus Far



"The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But—and this is the point—who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is a dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won't stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get." -Annie Dillard


My homeroom class of thirty-one has begun bringing pennies to class to help me support my World Vision sponsor child, Rocio, from Ecuador. I projected her picture on my LCD screen and told my students that I didn't want dollars, quarters, dimes, or nickels. I wanted pennies. Heights already collects enough money from the students for various reasons: needy families, the eighth grade D.C. trip, the homeless, a school in an Indian Reservation, technology updates... I didn't want to burden my kids with more incentives, so I made it simple. Bring in pennies. Help Rocio in Ecuador. What you don't bring in, I'll pay.


In the first week one boy brought two gallon-sized Ziplock bags full of pennies. I ripped the bags on the way home and spent all afternoon stacking them in their paper sleeves. The next week, if I'd forgotten to pass around the old salsa jar with Rocio's picture taped on the top, the students reminded me. When I forgot, they came up after class with their baggies full of pennies. I don't imagine that the pennies cost much for the students to give, but they support the livelihood of a six-year old child in Ecuador.


I'm finding pennies of my own as well: the golden fringe on the Crape Myrtle's leaves when the setting sun catches their color, the knock-knock of my neighbor's trash cans every Tuesday as the local trash-diggers search them for recyclables, the anticipated vibration in my coat pocket as my phone announces Phil's noon call, the juvenile layer of winter grass that grows beneath the hollow mustard in the Whittier Hills, the 7:55 bell that makes my heart quicken as if I'm about to give a performance, the ignored T-shirt lying at the foot of the bed every morning without fail, the fourteenth successfully completed Sudoku, and the suppressed giggles held back by lips that strain like the mouth of a balloon—I still cannot understand why Math is so funny to those second period girls, but if they can find humor in changing percentages to decimals, they'll find many more joys in life.

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