14 September 2015
Coins. They weigh down the pocket and make music when we walk. I delight in finding unusual offerings in my change, be it a bicentennial quarter or a wheat penny. I find coins interesting and think of their journey and their many handlers. There is a heft and dignity to the metal discs that I admire.
I used to roll coins to add to the children’s savings accounts, when our financial situation was better. It wasn’t long ago, really, but now, I roll coins to survive. The unusual become encased in the paper wrappers, lining up with their modern compatriots.
Yesterday, while at the grocery store buying the ingredients for the daily meal, the total escalated quicker than I calculated. My breathing grew labored, and I prayed the coupons I’d clipped would make the bill more manageable. S-bear and M-man fidgeted, bored.
“Momma, can I have a new magazine?” S-bear asked. “I want candy,” M-man added.
I wiped sweat from my forehead, eyes glued to the reducing bill. “Not today, guys. I’m sorry.”
“It’s never today,” they groused.
They’re right. At least recently, I’ve not been able to buy them treats. I ignored the tears prickling as I calculated the money in my wallet. I said around the growing lump in my throat, “I know. I’m sorry.”
I felt the eyes of the woman waiting behind me in line when the final total was announced. My face felt flames of embarrassment consume it. Two dollars short. An earlier unexpected automatic withdraw had left our bank account in the red. No credit cards to fall back on, either. I considered the few items on the conveyor awaiting bagging. Which could we do without?
Then, I remembered that morning’s activity. I’d rolled nickels. “I am so sorry to be a bother, but I’ll be right back.” I apologized to the cashier, to the lady in line, to my children, to all whom I felt my situation inconvenienced. “I’m sorry. I’ll hurry.”
I rushed to the car, a comfortable, loved SUV with hundreds of thousands of miles on it, a vehicle bought during a better financial time. From within the center console I grasped the roll, grateful for its heft, its worth, its value. Nickels, my shining silver heroes.
How many discarded nickels line streets, ignored and undervalued? I hurried back to the line with more apologies dripping from my tight throat, feeling as though everyone stared; everyone in the grocer’s surely knew our dilemma and either pitied or mocked us. I handed over my roll of coins, grateful to pay my bill and knowing the lack in the refrigerator would tomorrow require another trip and a repetition of the experience.
Tomorrow, though, I will remember the coins and keep better track of the total. I have faith that with each day, our situation will improve. Soon, I hope to have enough to buy a magazine and a candy bar for my shopping companions.
Just another humbling experience in my confusing life, and in this case, the hero was an oft-overlooked bit of metal.
PS- I gave serious consideration before posting this letter. I found this experience embarrassing. However, I know we are not alone in this type of situation. Even in this great nation, many are faced with tough financial decisions every day. We were blessed in having the roll of coins. I know to take none of our blessings for granted, and I pray the hungry be fed.
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