Eight-Penny Blessing

Eight-Penny Blessing

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Eight-Penny Blessing

When you rise in the morning, form a resolution to make the day a happy one for a fellow creature.

Sydney Smith

I had nearly two hours to burn in the Detroit airport, a layover on my way to Seattle. I’d flown through Detroit a number of times by then, and I’d become familiar with the airport. I made some phone calls, finished writing a letter and tossed it into the mailbox, and bought some fries at McDonald’s.

Then I was thirsty. I’d already downed one bottle of water, but airports seem to dry me out. Besides, I wanted some water for the plane. I stopped by a shop, took a bottle of water from the refrigerated case, and waited my turn in line.

The lady in front of me had several items, and her total rang up to some odd dollars and eight cents.

“Do you have the eight cents?” the clerk asked, after the woman handed him a twenty-dollar bill.

“I’m sure I do,” she said, as she dug around in her wallet. I waited patiently behind her—I was in no hurry, having an hour until my plane left—holding my two dollar bills for my $1.99 water. The dollars had been in my back pocket, change from my french fries, put there so I wouldn't have to dig for my wallet in my carry-on bag.

Finally the woman gave up, saying that she had no change at all. The cashier made a face, showing that he did not want to have to count ninety-two cents in change.

“I have eight cents,” I said. I knew I had at least eight pennies. My wallet is always full of pennies. It meant that I had to dig out my wallet, exactly what I tried to avoid doing, and I silently cursed myself for this sudden burst of altruism.

“Okay,” the sales clerk shrugged, counting out the change in paper money, then looking expectantly at me while I stuck my hand into the bowels of my suitcase’s front pocket. As long as he got his eight cents, he didn’t care where it came from.

The woman, however, turned to me, her eyes examining me up and down. “You’ll pay the eight cents?” she asked, skeptically.

“Sure, why not. It’s only a few pennies, and I have them.” By now the wallet was in my hand, and I counted the copper coins as I pulled them out with the tip of my finger.

“You’re serious?” she said incredulously. “I’ve never had anyone do anything so kind for me for no reason.” She put her hand on my shoulder. “May God bless you, dear. God will bless you for your kindness.” She hurried away to make her flight, while I counted the change for the clerk before he rang up my bottle of water. I was pleased that I made her so happy, but it was nothing except one of those tiny windows where you get the chance to do someone else a favor. I kept coming back to the monetary value of the deed. Eight cents. Why on earth would anyone get excited over that?

I had forgotten about the woman by the time I was on the plane, and I doubt I would have remembered her again if it hadn’t been for another incident that happened during my visit in Seattle.

My friend and I drove through the city, planning to attend a lecture. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, and my friend wasn’t quite sure of the exact location. After driving the same four-block area a couple of times, we pulled into a gas station. My friend hopped out of the car, and I thought she was going inside to ask a clerk for directions. Instead, she walked over to a woman and young boy sitting on a curb. I watched them talking, then my friend crouched down and leaned over the boy. She held up her hand, indicating they should wait just a moment, and she came back to the car, took a bill out of her wallet and a business card from her purse. “I’ll be right back,” she said. She went back to the couple, leaning over the boy again. This time I noticed he had a book on his lap.

When my friend came back to the car, I asked her if she got directions. She shrugged. I wondered if they had insisted on being paid for helping her, and I was about to offer to pay her back if that was the case. This lecture was my idea, after all.

“Oh, here it is,” she said as we finally found the building we’d been looking for. She pulled into the parking lot, and we got out of the car. “They had just come here from Texas,” my friend said, “so they weren’t exactly sure if this was the right building. The boy was having trouble with his math. He’s fallen behind. The money,” she said, “was to help them buy some food. The business card was so they could contact me for more math help.”

“What a good person you are,” I said. I thought her act was selfless, but she waved me off. “You’d do the same thing,” she replied. And I remembered the eight cents.

“People don’t expect kindness from strangers,” my friend said after I told her the story. “You might think it was only eight cents, but to that lady, it was a sign that there are good people in the world. Don’t be surprised if good things happen to you now from that one little deed.”

My friend had it wrong. Good things happened to me before my one little deed. God has blessed me in many ways, including having the extra pennies in my wallet so I could help someone else.

Now I dump a lot more spare change into the fund-raising tin on the counter of my favorite coffee shop. I regularly offer to pay the odd cents of someone’s bill. It may not sound like much, but it gives me the chance to share God’s good blessings, eight cents at a time.

Sue Marquette Poremba

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