I am re-reading Annie Dillard’s wonderful book, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.” She spent several years exploring the world around her cabin on Tinker Creek in southern Virginia. She shares a story of when she was 6 years old, growing up in Pittsburg. She used to take a penny of her own and hid it for someone else to find. She would put it in a crack in the side walk or at the root of a tree. She would then take a piece of chalk and draw arrows from both directions with words, ‘Surprise ahead", or "Money this way.” She never stayed around to see if anyone ever picked them up.
As she explored the details of life and death in the world around her little cabin, she thought about that 6 year old little girl. She said, “I’ve been thinking about seeing. There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. 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 trill 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 dire poverty indeed when a [person] is so malnourished and fatigued that [she or] 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.” (14-15)
I have been thinking these days about how to create a healthy poverty of spirit so that I will notice, stop and pick up those shiny pennies and cherish my days.