tudents are submitting essays and podcasts today to our classroom wiki for This I Believe. We will be submitting both to the This I Believe website in the hopes that some may be selected for publishing.
The following is my This I Believe essay which I wrote alongside of my students:
I believe in the two million pennies in my mother’s pocket. She conjures love and karma with them.
The secret has been that my mother reaches her hand into her pocket and shares every penny—whatever anyone needs, the pennies are theirs--and while raising me as a single mother she worked job after job after job to fight to secure every last penny she could.
We lived in the same row house in Philadelphia in which she was raised, and we shared meals, daily, with the aunts and uncles and cousins who also lived on that same street.
In fact, we shared in so many meals together with family that it was a small treat to eat some meals, just the two of us, at our modest kitchen table.
My mom stored some pennies in a petite white and blue porcelain jar on a windowsill. Standing on my toes, I used to peer inside when she wasn’t around to see how many pennies might be in there.
Working a regular job during the week and part-time jobs on some weekends didn’t leave a lot of time for herself. Instead, with that time, she chose to offer me the world on just a penny.
She took me to my first art classes at the Fleischer School of Art, reached into her pocket and offered me pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, paint, and paper—again and again and again. My enthusiasm wandered and I stopped taking the lessons...yet a love of art was born in me.
She slid a guitar out of that pocket, and acquired an instructor for me--whom I impatiently quit.
She showed me a newspaper ad for ice hockey and then poured enough from her pocket onto the counter to equip me—picking me up right after her shift at work was done twice a week, we’d drive an hour to and from Philadelphia just so I could skate for the first time.
I’d never skated before--yet she used what she had to make it happen...and patiently watched me shuffle around the ice in my equipment, leaning on my stick to keep me upright, and continued to nudge and drive me along until I could skate, could play, could compete.
Alone, I’d stand by the door each night we had hockey, already dressed in my hockey gear except for skates, gloves and helmet, and wedged myself into the passenger seat and often acted like a child—I complained that she was late, and we were going to be late.
It was a dark winter in 1979, a gas crisis crippled America—every penny counted for everyone. Yet she continued to count every last one for me and others.
Mom placed me and a cousin safely in her pocket of pennies and carried us to Disney World later that spring for nothing less than magic and love—she has been there many times since, upwards of 7 or 8 trips. While I haven’t been back with her, I like remembering that I was there with her during her first trip when she simply fell under its charming spell and has never awakened from it since.
Mom has tugged years of diapers from that pocket of two million pennies for that same Disney World cousin’s infant—single mom sharing pennies with another single mom.
Mom donates to the SPCA, to Susan G. Komen, and many other organization, yet still is happiest working for pennies. Don’t get me wrong, she’s held lucrative jobs, but she laughs and smiles answering phones one day a week at the salon my cousin works at as a stylist; she beamed this past weekend when she shared that she made fifteen dollars teaching childrens Zumba at the YMCA.
While I take great lessons from my mother’s infinite generosity and making the most out of what she has, I also take note that there is karma—just this month she has won her fourth trip from Regis & Kelly; that’s over $20,000 in trips in just over three years.
Some marvel at her luck, and some want to know her precise secret. After all, she watches the show, takes notes, enters the contest...there has to be some secret, right? Others even wonder why the show’s producers haven’t blacklisted her from ever winning another trip from them.
There is only one secret to her life--and it is also the answer to all questions: two million pennies in one pocket. The symbol of, and I’ll say it again, her infinite generosity.
$20,000 is a lot of pennies, but I know I have seen all two million of those pennies go from her pocket into the hands of others.
You’d think two million pennies in one pocket would be really heavy for her.
But they aren’t--empty pockets weigh heavier.