I found a dime while jogging last month. Where I did not stop to pick up the three pennies of a previous jog’s sighting, the dime could not be passed up. A dime still seems valuable to me.
I secured it between my left hand’s forefinger and thumb. As I resumed my run, I took to rubbing it round and round. I began to reminisce . . .
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Hart, Michigan. 1967. Saturday morning. The bakery, one block from our house.
Though this was nearly fifty years ago for then ten-year-old me, the specific aroma of that place permeates my senses. As I stood before the counter, I was in a dither. Too many choices. Would I buy a doughnut? They were a nickel. The owners must have been wise because they also had candy and gum. A candy bar was a nickel. Bazooka gum, Tootsie Rolls, and a host of items were a penny apiece.
Choose wisely, young one. You only have a dime.
The dime, which I would nearly pinch into oblivion, was the rare allowance from Mom, which she always reminded us was not an allowance. The chore I had just completed on this Saturday morning was met with the rare time Mom had a few dimes to spare to reward us for doing our share. That week, I vacuumed and swept. Dave got the dusting and Mark the bathroom fixtures. What of the older two, Tom and Sue? Their chores were as mystical to me as the slight of hand of the best magician; I was convinced they never did any.
With that dime in my hand, I felt like the richest kid in town. That day, as usual, I would not opt for the doughnut, but for two nickel candy bars. I departed the bakery and walked the one block home, the candy bars polished off before I hit the door.
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Montague, Michigan. Autumn, 1970. Lunch hour playground time. Nellie B. Chisholm Middle School.
I wasn’t in one of the countless games of football we threw together. This day, we were just hanging around, talking thirteen-year-old-smack, the latest joke, anything but something worthwhile.
That’s when I spotted it. About five yards away.
“Look! A dollar!”
For how quickly a half-dozen boys lunged for that buck, you’d have thought I just announced Karen Carpenter was standing on that spot. (Remember, it was 1970 and, yeah, I thought she was adorable.)
So much for my finding a dollar. What I did find was a lesson: if you spot a buck, keep your trap shut until it is safely in hand.
Spring, 1971. The corner of Wilcox and Grant streets in Montague. Kitty corner to our house. The lot with the falling down house that we thought was haunted.
Though I was scared to death of the house—a fear that was fueled by the older boys, whose guts I constantly hated for their meanness toward us younger ones—it had a huge maple tree that was the best one around for climbing.
I was up a ways, dangling on a branch, and looked straight down at the base of the tree. A dollar bill!
My teachers might often have questioned that I ever learned anything but, in that moment, I proved to be an “A” student. I kept shut my usually open trap.
Having learned from the Grinch how to quietly slither, I made my way down the tree like a zither kither.
The descent felt like Everest, but I would never rest until the buck was in hand.
I hit the ground. I grabbed the buck. I finally talked. Actually, I yelled: “I found a dollar! I found a dollar!” No one claimed it as one he had lost.
Man, was I proud of myself for pulling that off. By then, candy bars were a dime, but now I had ten dimes.
+ + +
Fort Wayne, Indiana. Spring, 1994. The neighborhood in which we lived for three years while I attended Concordia Theological Seminary.
Fort Wayne is not a big city, but it was for a person who always lived in small towns. It didn’t take long for it to grow on me, especially the many stores that were only blocks away, including Little Caesar’s and McDonald’s.
Slight detour in our story. I was in McDonald’s, getting a healthy American supper for the family. Next to me, a man took his order and sat down. Seconds later, he returned, holding his one-bite-out-of-it Quarter Pounder. “There’s no meat in this sandwich.” The embarrassed clerk apologized, took it, and grabbed another. The guy was wise; he unwrapped it on the spot and opened the bun. “There’s no meat in this one, either.” The clerk’s face turned ketchup red. She retrieved yet another, again allowing the man the honors of the grand opening. He struck meat!
Balloons and streamers fell from the ceiling. The local marching band launched into “You Deserve a Break Today.” Ronald McDonald hoisted the man on his shoulders and paraded him around the restaurant.
Okay, the guy just huffed back to his seat.
As I was saying, Fort Wayne grew on me. I loved how many streets there were, which gave me an almost limitless variety of jogging routes.
On the day in question, I was heading down the sidewalk of an especially lovely street lined with spiffy houses, neatly landscaped yards, but too many tree branches needing my constant attention to duck and miss.
There it was. U. S. currency. On the sidewalk. I stopped. It was a $20. Two hundred dimes in one tidy package, right before my eyes.
And now in my hands.
I wanted to continue my run, richer for calories burned while planning calories to consume. I could not. Twenty bucks was too much.
The money was right in front of a house. It was possible that a person lost it while getting into a car. I went to the door. If they were not home, I had given it an honest try and could run home with pronouncements of Little Caesar’s on a night that wasn’t a Friday.
A lady opened the door. “I was running by and found this twenty.”
I kid you not, here is what happened next: she took the money, didn’t say a word, and closed the door.
With more than a mile left to run home, I tried not to be angry at her lack of thankfulness, not to think that the money probably wasn’t hers or that I was the kid, all over again, who should have kept silent on the playground.
I might not have been rubbing found dollars between my fingers, but I had found the sense of doing the right thing.