Hiding A Penny

Annie Dillard

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Awakin FeatureWhen I was six or seven years old, growing up in Pittsburgh, I used to take a precious penny of my own and hide it for someone else to find. It was a curious compulsion; sadly, I’ve never been seized by it since. For some reason, I always “hid” the penny along the same stretch of sidewalk up the street. I would cradle it at the roots of a sycamore, say, or in a hole left by a chipped-off piece of sidewalk. Then I would take a piece of chalk, and, starting at either end of the block, draw huge arrows leading up to the penny from both directions.

After I learned to write I labeled the arrows: SURPRISE AHEAD or MONEY THIS WAY. I was greatly excited, during all this arrow-drawing, at the thought of the first lucky passer-by who would receive in this way, regardless of merit, a free gift from the universe. But I never lurked about. I would go straight home and not give the matter another thought, until, some months later, I would be gripped again by the impulse to hide another penny.

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?

It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that 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.

Annie Dillard's excerpt taken from her book, 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.'

Seed questions for reflection: How do you relate to the notion of 'healthy poverty and simplicity' that allows you to be joyful in discovery? Can you share a personal story of a time you reveled in gratitude for receiving a simple, humble and anonymous gift? What helps you cultivate a 'healthy poverty and simplicity'?

Add Your Reflection:

4 Previous Reflections:

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    On Jun 18, 2019 Jitu Jhaveri wrote:
    Healthy poverty is an oxymoron. I see that people here who are commenting seem to stretch their imagination to just babble on any topic and live in a state of happiness or pseudo happiness and call it a great thing! Whether they are addressing what is at hand or not.
    Poor kids never know and think of them as poor are in poverty. They are happy regardless most of the time as long as they have someone to play with! I think reality requires one to make a proper value judgmentand need to feel how it feels in their own body, whether stressful or relaxing? The feeling of relaxation in the body guides you towards reality and helps you look at the world with fresh eyes and value small, small delights, even picking up pennies. When someone who is malnourished and fatigue he is not seeing those pennies so does not pick up pennies. it is as simple as that. It is not dire poverty, it is just stupidity and poverty of imagination.

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    On Jun 18, 2019 alex merrin wrote:
    I once read a story about a woman who experienced great delight in finding pennies. Over a period of 16 years she saved every one she found. She kept them, she banked them and one day discovered a long held dream to visit family roots in Europe became a reality. The pennies all added up to her trip of a lifetime.

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    On Jun 15, 2019 David Doane wrote:
    I guess a healthy poverty and simplicity is having only as much of whatever as I need. Unhealthy wealth and complexity is having much more than I need. My daughter does a lot of business related traveling. She took me to India with her, much of the trip being not simple or anonymous, but it was a humble gift to a place I wanted to go and thought I never would go. We went to several ancient cities and places considered sacred and it was a remarkable experience. I still revel in gratitude for receiving the gift. What helps me cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity is my goal of holding on to only what I need and giving away what I don't need. Detachment is a healthy poverty and simplicity that brings joy and I live that way a little more and more. Less is usually enough.

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    On Jun 14, 2019 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    Healthy poverty to me means that I feel fullness in my heart. I feel a deep and abiding sense of contentment. There is nothing missing in the fullness of my heart. I do not feel the urge or craving to have something more in my life to fill the cup of my life. Living this way has simplified my way of living day by day. I receive anonymous precious gifts from nature day in and day out and from people in my life for surviving and flourishing my life. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for such free precious gifts bestowed upon me with no conditions. There are times when my mind deviates from this way of living, I feel something is missing in me and I look for filling the vacancy from outside of me. I forget the wise saying of Saint Kabir ' Fragrance of happiness and fullness lies within you.' or " All is well" as my mother used to chant. Paying attention when I mentally deviate from the right path of living fully inwardly and turning back to the path helps me to cultivate ... [View Full Comment] Healthy poverty to me means that I feel fullness in my heart. I feel a deep and abiding sense of contentment. There is nothing missing in the fullness of my heart. I do not feel the urge or craving to have something more in my life to fill the cup of my life.
    Living this way has simplified my way of living day by day. I receive anonymous precious gifts from nature day in and day out and from people in my life for surviving and flourishing my life. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for such free precious gifts bestowed upon me with no conditions.
    There are times when my mind deviates from this way of living, I feel something is missing in me and I look for filling the vacancy from outside of me. I forget the wise saying of Saint Kabir ' Fragrance of happiness and fullness lies within you.' or " All is well" as my mother used to chant.
    Paying attention when I mentally deviate from the right path of living fully inwardly and turning back to the path helps me to cultivate healthy poverty and simplicity. There is profound wisdomstated in Ishavasya Upanishad an ancient book of wisdom 'Renounce and Rejoice.'
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave[Hide Full Comment]

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