Notes from Jan

Small Change and Changes Matter

July 13, 2024

“A penny for your thoughts.” If you remember sayings like that one, you’re getting up there in years. Like me. A penny used to buy something. But my thoughts weren’t for sale, as far as I knew. However, today clever advertisers seem to take a stab at connecting my thoughts to their products. Sometimes it works. But none come for just a penny.

As a kid, finding a penny was like discovering a miracle on the sidewalk. First thought? Gumball! Get on my bike and head towards the nearest store with a gumball machine. I’d put the penny in the slot, give it a twist.Then, cup my hand to catch that treat. Hopefully, a black one. Licorice was my favorite. Oh, and it was a lucky day, if two slid into my sweaty palm.

So what’s the point? Small matters. I still find myself reliving the last blog, watching the old woman give a dime to a little girl. When I commented on her kindness and generosity, she said, “It wasn’t nothin’ much. Just a dime.” But it was something. And that’s the challenge in a culture with too many choices, too many needs. We get stuck and overwhelmed. So we do nothing, instead of something.

But something still matters. Born to parents who experienced the Great Depression, I grew up with “waste not, want not.” And stories from missionaries of people starving and beggars nearby nudged me to be part of my family’s “clean plate club.” Nothing wasted. On trash day our small metal bin stood in the alley behind our apartment. No such thing as conspicuous consumption lived in our neighborhood.

So back to the old woman and the dime. She forces me to ask myself several questions: What’s my dime? Who needs it? And what dime do I need? These questions dredged up a song. I recall the question it posed but not the tune. Probably because my parents had our radio tuned to WMBI, the radio station from the Moody Bible Institute. They didn’t play this song. But like lots of words and ways in our culture, I picked it up somehow. The song was, “Buddy, can you spare a dime?”

Like I said, it was written during the Great Depression in 1931. (I googled it.) And according to Google, “It made its debut in 1932 in the musical, Americana. It was considered the anthem of the Great Depression. The tune was based on a Russian-Jewish lullaby sung to the composer, Jay Gorney, by his mother. And the lyrics were by E. Y. “Yip’ Harburg.”

OK. You get it. Me, too. Kindness and generosity matter. But like Maya Angelou said, “It takes courage to be kind.” And J.R.R.Tolkein wrote, “I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” Small Change matters. So do small changes in us, “to keep the darkness at bay.”

So, what’s my dime? Yours? Giving time? Forgiving? Listening to learn? Spreading hope? taking risks? Oh, about those gumball machines? The last one I saw required a quarter. Granted the gumball was bigger, but a quarter? No way! Besides, none were black. Some decisions are easier than others.

But lets dare to do something. “Nothin’ much” still matters.

And so do you.

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